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What are Pennsylvania’s Tort Laws and What Do They Mean?

Posted on October 31, 2022

“Tort” laws address how victims injured by the negligence of another party are protected and entitled to compensation. In Pennsylvania, residents have tort coverage on their car insurance policies. However, you can choose between “Limited Tort” and “Full Tort” coverage. 

Limited Tort

When motorists in Pennsylvania choose limited tort coverage, they cannot sue an at-fault driver and recover compensation for pain and suffering after a car accident. As a result, their settlement cannot go beyond what the at-fault driver’s insurance policy can pay. Because of this, limited tort insurance is less expensive, and the claims process is much simpler. However, since the right to sue is taken away, it can have significant ramifications after a severe accident if you cannot recover compensation that fully covers your losses. 

Pennsylvania law does allow a few exceptions to limited tort coverage. In other words, you can still sue an at-fault party in the following situations. 

  • Serious Injury: If you suffer an injury that qualifies as “serious” under state law, you can sue. However, the definition of “serious” is unclear and undefined. As a result, a serious injury does not guarantee the right to sue. 
  • Out-of-State Vehicle: If the driver that hit you was operating a vehicle registered in a different state, limited tort coverage does not apply, and you can file a lawsuit. 
  • Drunk Driver: If the other driver involved is convicted of a DUI or accepts Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD), you can sue unless they are killed in the accident. 
  • Commercial Vehicles: When a collision involves a commercial vehicle, you always have the right to file suit.

Full Tort 

With full tort coverage, motorists have the option to sue an at-fault party no matter the circumstances. Meaning the at-fault driver’s liability coverage should pay for medical costs, but there is no injury threshold. As a result, full tort allows you to seek compensation beyond that for any change in your quality of life caused by the collision. The only drawback of this type of tort insurance is the price of the monthly premium, which will be higher than limited tort coverage. 

Negligence Tort Lawsuits

If you have the right to sue an at-fault party who caused you harm, their failure to provide the reasonable care expected of them is known as negligence. The wrongful party’s actions were not deliberate but preventable. To hold them accountable in a negligence tort lawsuit, you must prove the following: 

  • The defendant (at-fault party) owed you a duty of care (e.g., drivers on the road owe a duty to other drivers to follow traffic laws). 
  • The defendant breached their duty of care (e.g., ran a red light). 
  • The defendant’s breach of care directly caused your injuries, known as causation. In other words, you would not have been injured if not for the defendant’s failure to exercise reasonable care. 
  •  You suffered damages as a result of the defendant’s negligence (e.g., medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, emotional distress, etc.)

Other examples of situations that are commonly grounds for negligence torts include pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, slip and fall accidents, medical malpractice, etc.