The Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (“MVFRL”) requires insurance companies to provide consumers with the option of purchasing full tort or limited tort motor vehicle insurance. Of these two options, limited tort is the less expensive alternative. However, many consumers are not completely aware of the ramifications of selecting the limited tort option. When the limited tort option is selected, consumers and members of their household are giving up certain rights.
The full tort option provides the unrestricted right for the insured and the members of their household to seek financial compensation for injuries caused by other drivers. More specifically, the insured may seek recovery for all medical, other out of pocket expenses, pain and suffering and other nonmonetary damages as a result of the injuries caused by other drivers.
The limited tort option, as the name suggests, limits some of those rights for the insured and members of their household. With the selection of the limited tort option, the insured and members of their household, may seek recovery for economic loss, but may not seek recovery for pain and suffering and other nonmonetary economic damages unless an exception applies. Under Pennsylvania law, an insured who selects the limited tort option may be considered to have selected the full tort option when they suffer “serious injury” or the person who caused the collision: (1) is convicted or accepts Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) for driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance; (2) is operating a vehicle registered in another state; (3) intends to injure himself or another person; (4) has not maintained financial responsibility (does not have insurance). Additionally, a limited tort insured will be considered a full tort insured with respect to claims against a person in the business of designing, manufacturing, repairing, servicing or otherwise maintaining motor vehicles arising out of a defect in such motor vehicles or injured while an occupant of a motor vehicle other than a private passenger motor vehicle.
There are multiple statutory requirements that insurance companies must meet when offering consumers the option to purchase full tort or limited tort insurance as well as other insurance coverages. If you have questions about your policy, it is best to seek the advice of an attorney. This article is neither a comprehensive list, nor does it address every possible scenario regarding the application of tort options under the MVFRL. It is meant to provide a general overview of how the limited tort selection may affect an insured and members of their household.