Many drivers in Pennsylvania have limited tort policies, most often because it costs significantly less than having full tort. Many times an auto insurer will make it sound as if you cannot recover for pain and suffering because you have chosen limited tort insurance in Pennsylvania – that is simply wrong. You are entitled to recover for pain and suffering even with limited tort auto insurance, however there are some hurdles that you have to overcome. Limited tort cases take more work to do to establish that your injury case can overcome the “limited tort threshold”, this hard work is something that many Pennsylvania and Philadelphia car accident lawyers will not want to take on. Simply put limited tort car accident case take significantly more effort and time than a full tort case. This post examines 5 keys to winning limited tort cases in Pennsylvania, tips that can mean the difference in getting compensation for your injuries or going home with zero.
5 Key Tips for Winning Limited Tort Cases in Pennsylvania
Tip #1 – Does Your Case Fit the Limited Tort Exemption
Sometimes finding a way around an obstacle is your best course of action – in the situation where you have limited tort insurance, if your situation fits one of the listed exceptions your problem goes away and you are now full tort. Limited tort auto insurance policies provide: if you are involved in an accident, you can seek recovery for all medical and other out-of-pocket expenses, but not for pain and suffering, unless the injuries suffered fall within one of the exceptions to the limited tort status – which are as follows:
- The driver who caused the accident was driving a vehicle registered in a different state (like New Jersey or any other State),
- The driver who caused the accident is convicted of or enters a diversionary program such as ARD for the DUI,
- You were a pedestrian when injured in the accident,
- You were a passenger on a bus, taxi, truck, tractor-trailer or other commercial vehicle such as Uber or Lyft when hurt,
- You were on a motorcycle when hurt,
- Your injuries have resulted in a “serious impairment to a significant bodily function”.
Tip #2 – What does “Serious Impairment to a Significant Bodily Function” mean for Limited Tort
A great question, the serious injury exception is, often times, the most difficult to prove – it is left undefined by Pennsylvania Courts and is not automatic like the other limited tort exceptions. This question is very fact specific, each persons body, mind and situation is different. Generally, we always recommend following your medical providers recommended treatment plan and be diligent in doing so. That means if your chiropractor, primary care doctor, physical therapist, orthopedist, neurologist, pain management doctor or any other medical provider related to your accident and injuries recommends you get care you should do it. If you are referred for diagnostic testing such as x-ray, MRI, EMG/NCV testing, vestibular testing, neuropsychiatric exam, or other testing these are very important pieces for proving you suffered a serious injury and should be done. The insurance company will go over your treatment and care with a fine-tooth comb, any time you miss appointments, don’t get recommended testing or otherwise neglect your care they will latch right on to those instances to argue that you cannot be seriously hurt from this accident. Remember, an insurance company is looking for any reason not to pay your claims – if you do not follow your treatment plan, your handing one to them.
Tip #3 – Find a Limited Tort Car Accident Lawyer that Will File a Law Suit
In most personal injury accident cases, once medical treatment is complete, the car accident lawyer will put together what is called a ‘demand packet or specials packet’. The demand packet will contain a description of the accident, all of the treatment records, and a demand for money compensation. When the insurance company evaluates these demand packets, if they see that you had limited tort insurance coverage, they will deny a great majority of these claims simple based on the insurance adjusters claim that the injured party did not breach the ‘serious injury exception’. We have seen our share of these denials from insurance companies because they hate paying for pain and suffering related to limited tort cases (regardless of the severity of the injury). Our team of trial lawyers take a different tactic, we file suit on behalf of the majority of our limited tort clients – this puts a clock on the insurance company and they will take the claim a lot more seriously once a lawsuit is filed.
Having a lawyer that is unafraid of taking a limited tort accident case to trial is many times the difference is getting compensation for your injuries.
Tip #4 – Be on the Offensive, or File the Law Suit as a “Major”
In Pennsylvania there are two tracks to file a car accident law suit – arbitration track for cases valued under $50,000.00, or major jury (or non-jury) cases valued over $50,000.00. Our tip is that we want to be on the offensive in these types of situation, for that reason we file the majority of limited tort cases as ‘Majors’. This strategy, while more work intensive for your personal injury lawyer, places a client and their case on the best footing to recover money for their injuries. Being on the offensive indicates to the auto insurance company that we feel strongly that we have a viable claim and will litigate to make certain that our client get the best potential outcome. Pursuing a limited tort accident case in this way can add value to your car accident case, the auto insurance company understands that a case filed as a major jury offers a lot more risk exposure for loss than an arbitration case – and will conduct themselves accordingly.
Tip #5 – Your Lawyer Has to Ready to Take Your Limited Tort Case All the Way to Trial
Limited tort cases should not be taken by a lawyer if they are not ready to try the case. Settlement in limited tort cases happen, but a lot less likely than in full tort cases, many times settling only on the eave of trial. You should retain a trial lawyer who will prepare every limited tort case as a case that will be litigated to completion. This type of preparation will help a limited tort client to be placed in the best possible position to get compensated for their pain and suffering, economic injuries, either by way of settlement or verdict. The contemplation of a ‘runaway’ verdict is about the only thing that insurance companies fear – they are multi-billion dollar conglomerates that are in business to make money, not pay limited tort car accident claims. A car accident lawyer who is willing to take a limited tort case all the way through trial is paramount in getting you just compensation for your pain and suffering in these cases.
Keep in mind there are many Philadelphia area personal injury and car accident lawyers will not represent limited tort clients or even worse lawyers who will represent limited tort clients, but don’t employ the correct strategies to make a recovery. When you are ultimately making a decision of which car accident lawyer to go with, don’t just trust TV or billboard ads, read google reviews, knowing that you have an skilled Pennsylvania limited tort car accident lawyer is something that you should greatly consider.
To better understand the difference between limited tort and full tort insurance check out our article: What you need to know about Limited Tort vs Full Tort