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Car Insurance: Full Tort or Limited Tort? What This Choice Means to You

By: Robert B. George, Esquire
[email protected]

Pennsylvania law requires that you buy and maintain a minimum level of liability and medical expense car insurance coverage, and requires you to buy and maintain these types of coverage only. Any additional types of car insurance coverage, or any coverage in excess of the amounts required by law, is up to you to request and buy, as enhancements to this minimum basic car insurance.

This minimum basic car insurance and the coverage amounts are: (i) bodily injury liability in the amount of $15,000.00 for one person in any one car crash and $30,000.00 for two or more people in any one car crash; (ii) property damage liability in the amount of $5,000.00; and (iii) medical benefits in the amount of $5,000.00. This liability coverage applies to a claim made against you if you are at fault for the car crash. This medical benefits coverage applies to your own medical expenses from the car crash regardless of who is at fault.

So far, so good. But one very confusing car insurance option involves the choice between “full tort” and “limited tort.” So what does that bizarre word “tort” mean? The good news is that it really doesn’t matter. But what really does matter are the words “full” versus “limited” – because “limited tort” significantly limits your legal rights.

First, please keep this in mind – to receive the “limited tort” option, you must sign a document that clearly indicates that you have chosen “limited tort.” If you do not sign this document, you will receive “full tort.” The reason the law gives you this protection is that – again – “limited tort” limits your legal rights. Here’s how.

“Full Tort” Option: Unlike the “limited tort” option, the “full tort” option maintains unrestricted rights for yourself and other members of your household to seek financial compensation for all harm and losses caused by other drivers’ carelessness. Importantly, under the “full tort” option, you and other household members covered under your car insurance may seek financial recovery for all physical pain, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and disfigurement caused by other drivers’ carelessness.

“Limited Tort” Option: Under the “limited tort” option, your rights and the rights of members of your household to seek financial compensation for injuries caused by other drivers’ carelessness are limited. Importantly, under the “limited tort” option, you and other household members covered under your car insurance may not seek financial recovery for any physical pain, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and disfigurement caused by other drivers’ carelessness unless
the injuries incurred fall within the legal definition of “serious injury” or unless one of only a handful of other exceptions under the law applies.

Why should you worry about losing your legal rights if you don’t have a “serious injury”? The problem is with the interpretation of the legal definition of “serious injury”: it forces the focus upon the impact your injury has on your day-to-day life, not your injury itself. So, for example, if you suffer a fractured leg in a car crash but cannot afford to miss work beyond a few days out for surgery and recuperation, your fractured leg may not qualify as a “serious injury” under the law.

While the “limited tort” option is slightly less expensive, the “full tort” option may be well worth the additional expense if you, or any other members of your household who are covered under your car insurance, are involved in a car crash that results in injuries that do not qualify as a “serious injury” under the law. That’s because the additional expense for the “full tort” option may be much less than the benefit of potential financial compensation for physical pain, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life and disfigurement that you will gain under the “full tort” option. It’s a simple cost-benefit analysis.

If you become involved in a car crash where “full tort” versus “limited tort” is an issue, it’s important that you consult with an attorney who is experienced in this practice area, to ensure that your and your loved ones’ legal rights are properly protected.

The attorneys at the Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP are available to help you. Contact Robert B. George, Esquire at 610-565-5700, or send him an e-mail at [email protected].

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The National Trial Lawyers

The Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP, is located in Media, PA and serves clients in and around Media, Glen Riddle Lima, Brookhaven, Wallingford, Newtown Square, Lenni, Springfield, Swarthmore, Chester, Aston, Bryn Mawr, Morton, Woodlyn, Broomall, Gradyville, Folsom, Chester Heights, Crum Lynne, Glen Mills, Marcus Hook, Ridley Park, Drexel Hill, Marple, Bethel, Garnet Valley, Chadds Ford Concord, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County.


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