Northeastern Pennsylvania Personal Injury and Criminal Defense Blog

Full Tort vs. Limited Tort in Pennsylvania, What's the Difference?

Posted by Michael A. Sklarosky | Jun 29, 2023 | 0 Comments

Full Tort vs. Limited Tort in Pennsylvania

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, when you buy car insurance, you have the option of choosing full tort or limited tort on your policy.  Following a car accident, full tort coverage allows an injured individual to pursue any type of compensation they may be entitled to, including compensation for pain and suffering.  By choosing limited tort coverage, an injured individual forfeits his or her right to make a claim for pain and suffering following an accident.  Typically, by choosing limited tort coverage, the policyholder will receive a small discount on their monthly premium.  Although limited tort may seem appealing at first because it saves you money on your monthly premium, if you are in a car accident, you will realize that the savings you took when you signed the policy just weren't worth it.  Unfortunately, too many Pennsylvania drivers do not realize what they lose by choosing limited tort until it's far too late.  That is why our office always encourages Pennsylvania drivers to carry full tort on their auto insurance.

Exceptions to Limited Tort in Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania's Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL), there are exceptions in which an injured individual who chose limited tort or is insured by a limited tort policy can still recover for pain and suffering as if he or she had a full tort policy.  The limited tort exceptions in the MVFRL can be found at 75 Pa. Cons. §1705(d), and include the following:

Drunk Driver Caused The Accident – Limited tort does not apply if the driver at fault for the accident is convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance or accepts Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD).  The key to remember is that the person must be convicted of DUI or be placed into the ARD program.

An Uninsured Driver Caused the Accident – Under Pennsylvania law, if the driver who caused the accident was uninsured, the injured party is not bound by their limited tort selection.  The law reads that limited tort does not apply “whenever the person at fault has not maintained financial responsibility as required” by Pennsylvania law.  75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1705(d)(1)(iv).  This means that if the injured victim in a car accident has uninsured motorist coverage or UM insurance, a claim can be made against your own insurance company and you will not be bound by the limited tort option even if you chose limited tort under your own automobile policy.

At Fault Car Registered in State Other Than Pennsylvania – If the person who caused the accident was driving a vehicle registered in a state outside of Pennsylvania, the injured party's limited tort selection will not apply. 

Injured Party Is a Passenger on a Commercial Vehicle or a Motorcycle – If the injured party was a passenger on a commercial vehicle such as a taxi, bus, Uber, Lyft, rental vehicle, motorcycle, or any other type of vehicle that is not a “private passenger vehicle,” the injured party is entitled to full tort coverage even if they chose limited tort on their own policy.  A private passenger vehicle is defined as having four wheels, thus allowing motorcycle riders/passengers to obtain the exception to limited tort.

Pedestrian or Bicycle Rider –  A pedestrian or bicyclist injured by an automobile is not bound by limited tort, despite what they chose for their own automobile policy.  For instance, if you were crossing the street or riding a bike and was hit by a car, it does not matter that you chose limited tort on your own automobile policy.

The Injured Party Sustained a “Serious Injury” as Defined by Pennsylvania Law  –  Under the MVFRL a serious injury is defined as a personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body function, or permanent serious disfigurement.  The serious injury exception is the most difficult to prove because it is not automatic like the others listed above.  Whether an injury is serious under the limited tort law depends on factors such as the extent of the impairment, length of time the impairment lasted, and treatment required to correct the impairment.  The focus is not on the injuries themselves, but how the injuries affected a particular bodily function. There is no requirement that the injury be permanent. The burden of proof lies with the injured person. If a court or jury determines that the injuries suffered in a car accident are serious, limited tort does not apply.  Most often, lawyers use this exception more often than any other to get a recovery for limited tort clients.

Given all of the different things you need to keep in mind if you have selected the limited tort option on your auto insurance policy, it makes sense to get in touch with an experienced personal injury lawyer.


If you or a loved one have been injured as the result of a car accident, call Sklarosky Law today at (570) 283-1200 or use our online contact form and tell us about your potential case.  As explained above, these claims can be complex and challenging.  Do not wait, call us today so that we can help you obtain the financial compensation you may be entitled to.

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