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Full tort vs. limited tort in PA: What’s the difference?

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“Tort” is a legal term that may sound scary, but it’s very simple. A tort is an act that causes injury or harm to another person and has legal consequences. How does that impact you? If you’re a Pennsylvania resident, you have tort coverage on your car insurance policy.

What is a tort?

The meaning of a tort is fairly clear for those in the legal field. Since the Middle Ages, the word has been used by lawyers to mean one person did something wrong to another. For insurance purposes, that could be someone who ran a red light and hit your car at an intersection. 

Connected to the idea of tort is the sense that there are legal consequences for whatever has been done. That would mean that the person who ran the light is required to make up for doing something illegal (running the red light) that ended in your suffering and damage to your car.

To connect the dots, tort law, then, is when someone is brought to court so that damages can be assessed, and a penalty is assigned for the wrong that’s been done. In the insurance industry, it doesn’t often go that far because insurers settle claims before they are brought to court. 

What does tort mean?

As you can probably guess, a tort is important in many areas of law, including insurance. Your ability to be awarded a claim settlement when you’re involved in an accident that’s not your fault is one of the most basic reasons for having auto insurance.

Another reason for having auto insurance is so that if you are the cause of the accident, you are not bankrupted by paying the other person for damages or medical costs. In this case, your liability coverage should cover that payment. Your premiums may go up afterward, but you will be better off than if you had to pay for your damages.

Full Tort vs. Limited Tort in Pennsylvania

What is Full Tort?

Full Tort coverage in PA means that if you are injured in an accident, you can sue the other driver who was at-fault for non-monetary damages, such as pain and suffering. 

Pros

If you choose Full Tort for your PA auto insurance, you are retaining your right to sue someone who has caused you damage or injury in a car accident. Their liability insurance should pay for your medical costs, but Full Tort coverage would allow you to seek compensation for a change in your quality of life from the accident. 

Cons

The main drawback of Full Tort coverage is that your premium will be higher than if you had chosen Limited Tort coverage. If you’re on a tight budget, that may be significant for you and may have you considering Limited Tort to save money on insurance premiums.

What is Limited Tort?

With Limited Tort, you cannot sue the at-fault driver for your pain and suffering or for anything beyond what their insurance policy can pay. If the other driver has adequate insurance, your medical bills will be paid, but you cannot expect to receive a large sum to account for the intangible experience of being hurt.

Pros

You’ll save money with Limited Tort coverage, and that’s your primary benefit. It also makes for a simpler and more streamlined insurance claim since you waive the right to bring the other driver to court for pain and suffering.

Cons

The drawback to Limited Tort is that it is, well, limiting. The insurance company can turn you down if you try to seek compensation following an accident. Limited Tort means you can recover your actual costs, such as medical payments or lost wages, through liability or personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, but further claims will not be considered.

Which is right for me?

If you can afford it, Full Tort is a better option. Let’s look at our earlier example of the accident involving someone who runs a red light. With Limited Tort coverage, you will receive a payment for your totaled car and medical costs, such as the ambulance trip and the surgery to repair damage to your back. 

But the months or years of the loss of quality of life experienced after the accident are not covered with Limited Tort coverage. You cannot ask the insurance company for payment in acknowledgment of that or hire a lawyer to take the other driver to court.

Deciding whether Full Tort vs. Limited Tort is right for you depends on your tolerance for risk, and your need to save money. If you never have a serious accident, the extra money you paid for Full Tort coverage will have been wasted — but are you willing to take that risk?

On the other hand, if your finances are tight, Limited Tort may be a better option for you now, with the expectation that you can switch to Full Tort if you are in a better place financially in the future. And if you are a careful driver or someone who doesn’t drive often, you may feel that Full Tort is a waste of money.

The takeaway

Full Tort allows you to sue for pain and suffering or other purposes; Limited Tort takes away that right.

  • Tort refers to a wrong that has been done by one person to another.
  • It suggests that there are consequences to the wrong that was done.
  • Full Tort gives you the right to sue if you were injured in an accident.
  • Limited Tort takes away the right to sue for pain and suffering.

The ramifications of Full Tort and Limited Tort coverage in Pennsylvania are only felt after a serious accident. Auto insurance pays for damages and medical bills, but without Full Tort coverage, you can’t seek compensation for a loss of quality of life from an accident. It’s more expensive to have Full Tort coverage, but it gives you more rights.

Mary Van Keuren

After 30 years as a writer and editor in academia, Mary now writes full-time for the insurance and finance industries. Her work has appeared on Reviews.com, TheSimpleDollar.com and Bankrate.com, as well as other consumer-focused websites.

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