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Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Insurance Limited Tort Option

It is almost a daily feature when reading the news, car accidents happen everyday resulting in thousands of dollars and lives lost every year.  A few weeks ago Route 22 was in the news when a tractor trailer caused a 7 vehicle pileup on Route 22 near state Route 66. Sadly, there was a casualty in this accident. In addition to the unfortunate passing of a driver, there were also 2 people who were hospitalized after this accident. This tragic accident underscores the sad reality that accidents happen almost every day across Pennsylvania and throughout the United States.  When accidents do happen there are often injuries to property and to people. This blog post will explore the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Insurance law in Pennsylvania.

What is the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Insurance Law?

When you are involved in an accident you have certain rights in Pennsylvania. Specifically the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility law defines and explains individuals rights when they have been injured in a car or truck accident. It is important that you understand these laws because accidents happen when we least expect them, and these law affect your right to receive compensation if you are involved in an accident with a tractor trailer or other commercial vehicle.

The Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Insurance Law became effective on July 1, 1990 and provides basic minimum protection for accident victims. Under this law there are two types of insurance coverage which can be purchased by a driver. These two types of insurance coverage are known as limited tort option and full tort options.

Pennsylvania Limited Tort Option

Under the limited tort option, those who select the limited tort option, or those individuals who are bound by someone else’s selection of limited tort, may not bring an action for non-economic damages, or “pain and suffering,” unless they have suffered a “serious injury.”  A serious injury is defined by law as a personal injury resulting in death, permanent and serious disfigurement, or serious impairment of bodily function.  Some examples of serious injury that courts across Pennsylvania have found to meet the definition of serious injury include:

  • A head injury
  • Blurred and double vision,
  • Nausea,
  • Dizziness
  • Severe lower back pain
  • Bilateral leg pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Herniated disc
  • Degenerative disc disease

The courts have looked at these injuries and many others to determine if these injured impaired any bodily functions as a result of a motor vehicle accident.  One of the main reasons why a person may choose to buy the limited tort option as opposed to the full tort option is because a limited tort option is generally less expensive. A driver who selects a limited tort option as opposed to a full tort option can save up to fifteen percent off the premium.

Exceptions to the Limited Tort Option

There are a few other exceptions to the limited tort option where a person who has been injured in a motor vehicle accident or in a commercial vehicle accident may be able to bring an action for pain and suffering. If an insured person falls under one of these exceptions he or she will be able to pursue a claims as if she had full tort insurance and therefore may entitle them to recover for pain and suffering. Some of these exceptions include:

An occupant of a non-private passenger vehicle. Non-private vehicles include those vehicles such as business vehicle, company vehicles, commercial vehicles including tractor-trailers and buses. If a person who is a passenger or a driver of a non-private passenger vehicle than they will be entitled to recover under the full tort option and will not be limited by the limited tort recoveries.

Pedestrians or cyclists are another class of individuals who may fall into an exception under the limited tort option if they are injuries in a motor vehicle accident. There are an alarming number of pedestrians and cyclists who are injured every year as a result of motor vehicle accidents.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2014 there were a total of 4,884 people who were killed in pedestrian and motor vehicle crashes. The report noted that although the number of fatalities fell from 4,901 in 2001 to 4,884 in 2014, there were still over 65,000 reported pedestrian injuries in 2014. When you break down the numbers, this means that there is an accident involving a pedestrian and a motor vehicle every 8 minutes. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reported that in 2014 there were a total of 166 pedestrian deaths and a total of 3,985 pedestrian injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident.  Under the Pennsylvania Limited Tort Exception if the victim of a motor vehicle accident was a pedestrian or on a bicycle then they may be able to recover under an exception to the limited tort general bar on pain and suffering claims. In these cases the individual’s automotive insurance policy will still provide medical coverage.

Victims of DUI or DWI if the at fault driver is convicted of DUI or DWI or alternatively they plead guilty or are placed onto Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition of DUI or DWI, then the victim of the accident will not be subjected to the limited tort bar on pain and suffering. There is a strong public policy behind this particular exception. The legislature has carved out this exception because the state does not want to reward drunk drivers or drivers who may be under the influence of drugs. By imposing full tort liability on drivers who cause an accident because of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they are not able to limit their civil liability.

Contact an Experienced Pennsylvania Truck Accident Lawyer Today

To schedule a private, no-cost evaluation, call the law offices of Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000 or contact us online. If the statute of limitations expires, your window of legal opportunity will close and you won’t be able to pursue a claim. So contact us today to see how we can make our experience work for you. You only pay if there’s a financial recovery.

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