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Limited Tort Coverage When Other Driver Was At-Fault

Shabbick & Associates, PC June 7, 2023

According to statistics compiled after 2021 by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), there are about 13 reported auto crashes in Pennsylvania every hour, resulting in three fatalities a day—along with 191 injuries.  

These are sobering statistics. You most literally take your life into your own hands when you venture out in your vehicle. You never know when a negligent driver can smash into you. If you or your passengers suffer injuries because of another driver’s negligence, you would expect that driver or their insurance carrier to pay for your medical expenses. 

In Pennsylvania, who will pay you for your injuries depends on which type of auto insurance you purchase. You can choose between no-fault insurance (also called limited tort), or at-fault insurance (also called full tort coverage). In the former, your injuries may be covered by your insurance. In the latter, the other driver and their insurance may be responsible. There are pros and cons to each type of insurance. 

If you have been injured in a car accident in or around Bethlehem or Palmerton, Pennsylvania, contact the attorneys at Shabbick & Associates, PC. We can press your claim to make sure you pursue the compensation you deserve, whether you have no-fault or at-fault insurance. Insurers have been known to lowball their payouts, so let us deal with them on your behalf. We can also file a personal injury lawsuit when warranted. We proudly serve clients throughout Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon counties, so reach out to us today. 

Understanding Limited Tort Coverage in Pennsylvania 

Every driver in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is required to carry a minimum package of liability insurance abbreviated as 15/30/5. The 15 stands for $15,000 for one person you injure in an accident you cause. The 30 stands for $30,000 for all persons you injure. The 5 is for $5,000 in property damage you cause.  

As mentioned, there are two options available—limited tort (no-fault) and full tort (at-fault). If you opt for limited tort, you will also have to purchase what is called Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which covers $5,000 in injuries you suffer in an accident, no matter whose fault it is. Limited tort means that in most cases, you cannot make an injury claim against the other driver, nor sue them for personal injury.  

Lawsuits are possible only in certain circumstances. For instance, if the injuries are serious, such as an impairment of a bodily or organ function, or disfigurement is involved, you may be able to file a lawsuit. You can also make a claim against the other driver’s insurance or launch a personal injury lawsuit if your medical expenses exceed your PIP cap. 

Pros and Cons of Limited-Tort Auto Insurance 

One upside to limited-tort insurance is that it’s quick. There’s no going back and forth between your insurer and the other driver’s insurer to determine who is going to pay what. The expenses and time frame of a lawsuit can also be avoided.  

The downsides are that you can’t file a lawsuit unless under limited circumstances. With a lawsuit, you may recover not only economic damages for medical expenses and lost wages but also non-economic damages for pain and suffering. PIP does not pay non-economic damages. 

Comparison: Limited-Tort vs. Full-Tort Coverage 

The above sums up how limited-tort coverage works. Full-tort coverage, on the other hand, gives you three options when you are injured by another driver’s negligence. First, you can make a claim with your own insurance company, which will then make a subrogation claim against the at-fault driver’s insurer. Second, you can make a claim directly against the at-fault driver’s auto policy. Third, you can file a personal injury lawsuit without having to meet certain thresholds (except to establish negligence, of course). 

Who’s Really to Blame? Comparative Negligence in Pennsylvania 

While you may feel the other driver—the one who struck you—is fully at fault, an insurance company claims adjuster or a jury in a personal injury lawsuit will look to see if you shared any of the fault. This is done through Pennsylvania’s legal standard of modified comparative negligence, or fault. It’s called modified because it caps how much of the fault you are responsible for at 50 percent. Above 50 percent, you cannot collect from the other driver. 

Here's an example of comparative negligence at work: You’re driving along the highway with a driver following you too closely. You slam on the brakes to avoid running into an animal that has got lost on the road you’re on. The driver behind you rear-ends you and you suffer head and neck injuries.  

Your expenses and losses come out to $20,000, so you make a claim or file a lawsuit for that amount. It turns out, however, that your brake lights weren’t working. The claims adjuster or jury figures this is 30 percent of the fault, so your $20,000 is reduced to $14,000. Now, if they claim you were 51 percent at fault, you will most likely get nothing. 

Consult an Attorney Today 

If you’ve never dealt with an insurance company claims adjuster before, you’ll be surprised at how frustrating the process can be. Don’t let the insurance company give you a lowball offer or try to corner you into admitting fault. Let us handle their questions and negotiate for the best possible result. If there’s a lawsuit warranted, we can help you strategize a path forward. 

If you’re in Bethlehem or Pemberton and you’ve been injured in a car accident, reach out to us immediately at Shabback & Associates, PC. We’ll go to bat for you and help you seek the compensation you deserve.