Compensation for Pain & Suffering in a Philly Car Accident Lawsuit – Limited Tort vs. Full Tort

If you've been injured in a car accident in Philadelphia, you're probably wondering whether you can get compensated for your pain and suffering. The answer depends on your own car insurance policy (if you're a PA resident).

[suffusion-widgets id=’5′]

Pain & Suffering After a Philadelphia Car Accident

In car, truck or pedestrian accidents in Philadelphia, injured victims almost always ask about their ability to get compensated for their pain and suffering. The answer almost always depends on the type of insurance the injured person purchased. This only applies to Pennsylvania residents, or anyone who is covered under a Pennsylvania car insurance policy as either an insured or member of the household (i.e., spouse, child, dependent, etc.).

Limited Tort vs. Full Tort

Under PA auto insurance law, every policy issued in this state requires the insured to select between full tort and limited tort. Limited tort policies are cheaper than full tort ones. Therefore, many residents in PA, including folks in Philadelphia, elect limited tort. Oftentimes, the election is made without fully understanding how limited tort works.

PA residents who chose limited tort on their car insurance policies (versus full tort) can only claim pain and suffering damages under certain circumstances. In other words, an injured auto accident victim’s ability to receive compensation for pain and suffering is limited. However, the limited tort election doesn’t affect or limit the ability to seek financial damages like medical bills or lost wages.

Limited tort’s counterpart, full tort, doesn’t come with any such limitations. Injured victims who chose full tort on their policies can sue for pain and suffering without limitation.

It’s important to note that there are multiple exceptions to the limited tort law which will not be discussed in this article. Limited tort law is one of the most complex areas of auto accident law in Pennsylvania. There are literally hundreds of court cases, just within the last few years, which deal with the many exceptions to limited tort law, when limited tort applies, who it applies to, etc. Click here to learn about PA limited tort law and its exceptions.

Here’s an example to illustrate the difference between limited and full tort.

A Philadelphia resident owns a car and is insured under a standard car insurance policy with limited tort. She gets into a car accident that is caused by another driver. She suffers low back injuries which require some chiropractic treatment and a few weeks of physical therapy. Within 2 months, she recovers completely. In a car accident lawsuit against the other driver, she wouldn’t be able to make a claim for pain and suffering.

In theory, she could still sue for her economic damages, but the reality is that in this example, the economic damages probably wouldn’t amount to much, certainly not enough to justify filing a costly lawsuit. The costs these days of filing even the most basic lawsuit can be as high as $2,000 or more, and that’s just for court filing fees, deposition costs, etc.

If the individual in our example had a full tort policy, she would be able to sue the at-fault driver for pain and suffering.

In our car accident law practice, potential clients are often surprised to learn that they have limited tort and are often confused about why it should apply to them. It’s a common question, why does my car insurance policy limit my ability to get fully compensated when the other driver caused the accident? The answer has to do with the Pennsylvania legislature which decided decades ago that auto insurance should be affordable. So, the limited tort/full tort election law was passed. The practical reality is that this election essentially allows consumers to choose between cost and legal rights. Many choose cost.


  • PIP Auto Insurance Claims After a Philadelphia Car Accident (April 12, 2018) PIP (personal injury protection) claims can be very confusing, especially since PA is a no-fault state. If you’re injured in a car accident, whether it’s your fault or another person’s fault, you make a PIP claim for medical bills under your OWN policy. That’s the law in PA.
  • UIM & UM Claims in Pennsylvania – What’s the Time Deadline to File? (April 5, 2018) A November 2017 Pennsylvania Supreme Court case changed the deadline to file a UIM/UM claim. Under the new case, individuals have 4 years from the date the insurance company breaches the insurance agreement.

Philadelphia Car Accident Law Firm

Our law firm represents car accident victims in car, truck and pedestrian accident lawsuits throughout Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. Call for a free consultation. (866) 641-0806