In a previous blog post, we began to delve into some of the differences between full tort and limited tort auto insurance policies in Pennsylvania. For a more comprehensive discussion of some of the basics, please see our previous blog post. However, one issue that was raised but not addressed in that post was when an individual can sue for additional non-economic damages despite the general prohibition on this type of action.
If you elected limited tort insurance coverage and suffered serious injuries in an accident, you may have been surprised to learn about the limits of the damages you can claim. However, exceptions to this rule may allow you to sue for pain and suffering and other types of non-economic damages. The ability to claim these damages can increase your settlement or jury award and ensure that you are compensated for the full extent of injuries you suffer.
In this blog post, our Philadelphia personal injury lawyers examine a few of the scenarios in which a limited tort claimant can nevertheless make a full tort claim due to falling within an exception to the rule.
Limited Tort Exception #1: The At-Fault Driver Intended to Cause Harm or an Injury
On exception that can permit a driver with limited tort coverage to claim non-economic damages involves a crash or collision that was intentional. That is, drivers who intend to injure themselves or another person make-up the first exception to the bar on limited tort claimants making claims for non-economic damages. See 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1705(d)(iii).
However, it is essential to note that the driver’s intent must be directed at the desire to cause injury. Merely intending to bring about a crash or a vehicular accident is not enough. Likewise, a general awareness that the actions that were undertaken are highly likely to or create a grave risk of injury is not enough. The intent must be directed at a desire to cause harm to a pedestrian, cyclist, or fellow motorist.
While this exception seems particularly promising, there are certain caveats that exist. For one, most insurance policies will specifically disclaim coverage for intentional acts by the driver.
Limited Tort Exception #2: The At-Fault Driver Is Driving a Vehicle Registered in a State other than Pennsylvania
Another common exception to the rules regarding limited tort coverage involves a driver from another state. That is, if the vehicle belonging to the at-fault driver is registered outside of Pennsylvania, then the prohibition on claims for non-economic damages does not apply. See 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1705(d)(1)(ii). For instance, if a person driving a car registered in New Jersey, Delaware, or any other state besides Pennsylvania was to be at-fault in an accident occurring in Pennsylvania, then the prohibitions against limited tort claims for non-economic damages would not apply. By contrast, this exception would not apply if an Ohio resident was at-fault in an accident while driving a vehicle registered in Pennsylvania.
Limited Tort Exception #3: The Individual with Limited Tort Coverage Was Injured by a Vehicle Defect
In light of the major auto defect scandals that ave plagued the auto industry in recent years, this exception to the generally limited tort rules is particularly noteworthy. This exception holds that individuals with limited tort coverage who suffer an injury due to a product defect rather than due to the negligence of another driver can make a claim for non-economic damages. See 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1705(d)(1)(ii).
Theoretically, this exception means that limited tort drivers who have suffered injury due to vehicle problems like Takata’s defective airbag inflators, GM’s ignition switch defect, or FCA’s fuel tank placement defect can make a claim for non-economic damages.
Limited Tort Exception #4: The At-Fault Driver Is Uninsured
Another common exception to the bar against claims for non-economic damages by drivers with limited tort coverage involves when the other driver is uninsured in violation of Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility law. That is, if the at-fault driver is uninsured, then the rule against non-economic damages applies. However, if the driver is uninsured, there is no insurer and thus claims must be brought against the personal assets. While there are exceptions, in most cases, this is not a particularly favorable path to proceed upon.
However, the individual still retains the right to pursue an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim through his or her own insurer. In light of the foregoing, this type of claim may be better handled through one’s own UM or UIM policy. A Philadelphia car accident lawyer can help you understand what options you have following an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver.
Contact an Experienced Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer When You Have Insurance Coverage Questions
If you have questions regarding how your limited tort or full tort insurance election impacts your ability to claim damages after a serious accident, call the Philadelphia mass tort lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm. For more than three decades, the lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm have fought to secure compensation for injury victims. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call (215) 246-9000 or contact us online.