If you have read our previous article titled: “Differences in Full Tort and Limited Tort Auto Insurance in Pennsylvania,” this article may be helpful as well.
Pennsylvania law recognizes several exceptions to Limited Tort coverage. Under these exceptions, the victim can seek full damages caused by the party at fault, including pain and suffering. In other words, they are not restricted by the limited rights of their Limited Tort policy.
The Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Responsibility Law explains the Limited Tort exceptions, but we’ll set them out briefly here as follows:
1) Injured while on a motorcycle.
2) A drunk driver caused the accident. That driver must be convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or accepted into an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program.
3) The driver who caused the accident was operating a vehicle registered in another state.
4) Anyone injured while riding in a commercial vehicle, such as a being a passenger on a bus, truck, taxi.
5) The driver who caused the accident did not have auto insurance.
6) The “Serious Injury” exception. The restrictions of Limited Tort coverage will not apply if a victim is deemed to have suffered “serious” injuries. Other than in cases of scarring, disfigurement or death, proving that an injury is serious enough to reach this threshold can be challenging.
More About the “Serious Injury” Exception to Pennsylvania Limited Tort
Many times people suffer injuries that require months of medical care, even though the accident was relatively minor. Anyone suffering months of rehabilitation and therapy would believe that their injuries are “serious”. However, Pennsylvania courts have not always agreed. Even long-term suffering and treatment may not always qualify. This is probably because there is no clear definition just what constitutes a “serious” injury for Limited Tort exception purposes.
To meet the “serious injury” threshold an injured party is required to prove that they have suffered a serious impairment to a significant bodily function. In plain language, this means proving that their injuries have placed significant restrictions on their daily life.
In the case of Washington v. Baxter our Pennsylvania Supreme Court enumerated the factors that a Court may consider when making a “serious injury” determination. The Court stated that the injury need not be permanent, but the extent of impairment, the particular body function impaired, the length of time the impairment lasts, the treatment required to correct the impairment, and other relevant factors may be considered.
Unfortunately, there is even more bad news for drivers bound by the provisions of a Limited Tort policy. Our Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held that the “exceptions” to Limited Tort (above) do not apply to claims under the Uninsured or Underinsured provisions of your own policy. The case is: Rump v. Aetna Casualty, 710 A.2d 1093 (Pa. 1998).
Uninsured or Underinsured coverage can be purchased for a slight increase in the premium. This gives the driver additional protection when an uninsured driver injures them. Being injured in a “hit and run” accident is a good example. However, if you have paid for these extra coverages – and have chosen Limited Tort coverage – the exceptions to limited tort do not apply.
Here is a practical example: You have chosen the Limited Tort Option, and also carry $100,000 in Uninsured Motorist coverage. You are rear-ended by an uninsured driver, who is later convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) at the time of the crash. Ordinarily the drunk driver exception to Limited Tort would apply. However, even though you paid for Uninsured Motorist coverage, you may not be able to collect against it, because of your Limited Tort selection. Of course you can still bring an action against the drunk driver, and hope that they have adequate insurance coverage.
For more information please read our article: “Differences in Full Tort and Limited Tort Auto Insurance in Pennsylvania”.
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