In Pennsylvania, every owner of a registered motor vehicle must obtain automobile insurance on their vehicle pursuant to 75 Pa. C.S. § 1701 et. seq. In 1990 the law was changed to enable vehicle owners to have a choice between the standard automobile insurance policy and a cheaper, less expensive automobile insurance policy. These two types of policies are known as a "full tort" policy and a "limited tort" policy. A "full tort" policy is a traditional policy wherein the insureds on the policy have an unrestricted right to bring an injury claim against a negligent driver, regardless of the type of injuries sustained. A "limited tort" policy is where the vehicle owner obtains a discount from the insurance carrier and in return for that discount the vehicle owner gives up his or her right to bring a claim for bodily injuries, regardless of how negligent the other driver may have been. The problem is that the vehicle owner's tort selection is binding on all of the "insureds" under the policy who do not own their own vehicle and are consequently not a named insured on any other policy. Pennsylvania auto law defines an "insured" as anyone residing with the vehicle owner (named insured) who is a spouse or relative of the vehicle owner. Thus, any child, grandchild, sibling, parent, grandparent or spouse (even if married after the auto insurance policy went into effect) may be bound by the household vehicle owner's limited tort selection, even though those "insureds" received no money (discount) from the automobile insurance company in exchange for the loss of their constitutional right to bring a bodily injury claim against a negligent driver that caused his or her injuries.
It should be noted however that a "limited tort" policy only pertains to "non-economic" damages or what is otherwise known as damages for pain and suffering. A person's right to pursue economic damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages and property damage against the negligent driver arising out of a motor vehicle accident is not restricted by the limited tort option. Thus, unless you meet one of the exceptions to the limited tort option, you may be prevented by the limited tort option from pursuing a bodily injury claim for pain and suffering. However, you will still be able to bring a claim for excess medical bills, lost wages and property damage to your vehicle caused by a negligent driver. See 75 Pa. C.S. § 1705(d).
Of course the best way to ensure that you can bring a bodily injury claim as well as a claim for excess medical bills, lost wages and property damage arising out of a motor vehicle accident is to make sure that you or the vehicle owner in your household that is a relative of yours obtains a "full tort" automobile insurance policy. When you realize that the limited tort policy the vehicle owner purchases is binding on every household relative that does not have their own automobile insurance policy, you will realize that the amount of the discount divided by the number of household relatives who lose their rights is not worth the amount of the discount per person. Also, the limited tort policy has no affect on whether another person can bring a negligence claim against you. Your limited tort policy will pay another person injured by your driver's negligence, but may very well prevent you and your household relatives from bringing an injury claim against a negligent driver that injured you and/or your household relatives.
If you are injured in Pennsylvania by a motor vehicle, you should always consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to determine whether you have the right to pursue a claim against the negligent driver's insurance carrier for financial compensation for personal injuries, excess medical expenses and lost wages.