Limited Tort and Full Tort – What difference does it make?

When I first heard of the word “tort” in law school, I thought of a dessert. I soon learned that what I was thinking of was the word “torte” which means a rich cake made with many eggs and little flour and usually containing chopped nuts. While there are plenty of “nuts” committing torts, that’s a blog for another day. For now, I want to tackle the difference between the Pennsylvania law of Limited Tort and Full Tort.
When a person purchases auto insurance in Pennsylvania, they are confronted with two choices: full tort and limited tort. There are some good things and some bad things about each one. Let’s talk about limited tort. First, the good, when you select limited tort auto insurance in Pennsylvania, you save money on your premium payments. However, the not so good part is that if you are in a car crash, you are “limited” in the types of legal claims you can make against the at-fault driver. A person who has limited tort insurance can only make claims for economic losses – typically things like…

…unpaid medical bills and lost wages.
When you are full tort, while you may pay more for your premium payments, the good news is that you are not limited in terms of the legal types of claims you can make. A person with full tort automobile insurance can make claims for economic losses, just like a person with limited tort, but the full tort person can also make claims for non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering (something a person with limited tort cannot do under the law).
That being said, there are a few situations where a person will not be bound by their limited tort selection, such as when a drunk driver is at fault, or if the collision occurs due to an out-of-state driver.
Over the years, I have seen many people who have selected limited tort and who are quite surprised that there is very little I can do to help them after their Pennsylvania car accident. As a Pennsylvania lawyer who has handled and/or met with hundreds of auto accident victims, my best recommendation is that, when given the choice, you should select the full tort option in Pennsylvania. If you are ever in an auto accident that is someone else’s fault, you will be very glad you did.