In Pennsylvania, insurance companies are required to give drivers the choice of full tort or limited tort auto insurance. Unless you have a law degree, you might not understand what these two options mean and how they affect car insurance prices. Today, we’re highlighting the difference between full tort and limited tort auto insurance to help decide which option is right for you.
Why Is There a Choice?
Drivers in Pennsylvania are the only ones who need to decide between full tort and limited tort auto insurance.
The options were implemented by the state of Pennsylvania in an effort to reduce insurance prices in the state. There were too many pain and suffering lawsuits in Pennsylvania courts. These lawsuits were raising car insurance prices across the state.
In response, the state of Pennsylvania decided to make personal injury protection (PIP) mandatory. All drivers would be required to purchase PIP insurance coverage. By adding this coverage, all drivers would receive a certain amount of coverage for their own medical expenses, regardless of who is at fault.
The theory behind the creation of mandatory PIP coverage was to reduce the number of lawsuits for pain and suffering, thereby reducing insurance company payouts and lowering premiums.
This strategy appears to have worked: drivers in Pennsylvania pay average car insurance prices. In fact, on the last state rankings for 2018, Pennsylvania placed squarely in the middle, ranking 25th on the list of most expensive states for car insurance. The average driver in Pennsylvania pays about $1,440 per year for car insurance.
What’s the Difference Between Full Tort and Limited Tort Coverage?
Full tort and limited tort coverage play a crucial role in Pennsylvania’s personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.
Individuals who purchase car insurance in Pennsylvania will be classified as being limited tort or full tort. Tort, for those who didn’t go to law school, is a legal term that means “civil wrongdoing”, including wrongful actions for which damages can be sought by the injured party.
Here’s how it works from a car insurance perspective:
Full Tort: Drivers who choose the full tort option will have the ability to sue in court for pain and suffering for all types of injuries.
Limited Tort: Drivers with limited tort coverage will have “limited” ability to sue for pain and suffering. Drivers will only be able to claim pain and suffering for the most serious injuries.
Both full tort and limited tort coverage only apply in situations where the driver or passengers were injured in an accident that was the fault of another party. These policies do not apply when involved in a single vehicle accident.
If another driver injured you in an accident, then you have the option of bringing charges against the at-fault driver. You can sue in court for unpaid medical bills, property damage, loss of income, pain, and suffering, for example.
Pros and Cons of Full Tort and Limited Tort Coverage
Full tort coverage is the best option if you want to maximize your coverage and legal options. With full tort coverage, you have the ability to sue the other driver for any damages and medical expenses after a collision.
The main benefit of limited tort coverage is that you save money today. You’ll pay approximately 15% lower premiums per year in exchange for giving up some of your legal rights.
Some consumers will choose limited tort coverage because they want to save on car insurance premiums today. There’s nothing wrong with that: you can save anywhere from 10% to 20% per year by choosing limited tort.
However, by choosing limited tort, you’re giving up the right to sue for certain situations.
What Are the Downsides of Limited Tort Car Insurance?
Limited tort car insurance is a guaranteed way to save money. However, there’s a reason limited tort car insurance is cheaper: it restricts your ability to sue for certain damages.
By choosing limited tort, you’re giving up your ability to sue for pain and suffering unless the injuries suffered are considered a “serious injury”.
A “serious injury” is defined under Pennsylvania law as “death, significant deformity or impairment of body function.”
In other words, limited tort restricts your ability to sue unless the accident left you dead, disfigured, or crippled. You might receive a permanent injury from an accident, only to realize that the car insurance company does not consider that injury to be serious.
If you choose limited tort, then you will not be able to claim pain and suffering damages for most injuries.
Theoretically, the law is designed to prevent drivers from claiming frivolous injuries for pain and suffering. In practice, however, the law prevents drivers from claiming pain and suffering for virtually any injury – even permanent ones.
If you can afford it, full tort car insurance is generally the better option. Choosing limited tort car insurance saves you about 15% on premiums. However, you’re giving up the ability to claim pain and suffering for most injuries.
Talk to your insurance company – or your lawyer – to determine whether full tort or limited tort car insurance is the right choice for you.