If you are involved in a car accident and are seeking to make a claim for personal injuries, your attorney will likely ask you to produce your Insurance Declarations Page that was in effect at the time of the crash. Clients often wonder why this information is necessary, especially when they are not at fault for the accident. One reason an attorney needs this information is to verify the tort option that you selected when you purchased your insurance policy.
In Pennsylvania, when automobile insurance is purchased, you are required to make an election of either full tort or limited tort coverage. Full tort is more expensive than limited tort coverage, but by selecting limited tort coverage you may be giving up certain rights in the event that you are injured. If you elect to purchase limited tort insurance, you give up your right to pursue a clam for pain and suffering damages in the event of a car accident, except under certain circumstances. By purchasing full tort coverage, you have the unrestricted right to bring a claim for pain and suffering damages associated with a car accident claim.
If you elect limited tort coverage, you may only pursue a claim for pain and suffering damages in the following instances: (1) the other vehicle involved was licensed in a state other than Pennsylvania; (2) the driver of the other vehicle pleads guilty to driving under the influence (DUI) or is accepted into the ARD program; (3) the vehicle that you are occupying at the time of the accident is not a private passenger automobile, i.e., the vehicle is not owned by a natural person; or (4) as a result of the accident, you sustain a serious injury . Serious injury is defined as (1) death, (2) dismemberment, (3) permanent disfigurement, or (4) a serious impairment of a bodily function. Whether your injuries are considered serious is typically a question for a jury to decide.
Many clients do not even know that they have elected limited tort coverage until after they are involved in an accident. Clients often tell us that they just purchased the insurance that was cheapest. Unfortunately, the small saving that you get from electing limited tort coverage may preclude you from making a claim for pain and suffering damages if you are injured as a result of a motor vehicle accident. We always recommend that clients elect full tort coverage in order to protect their rights if they are unfortunately injured by the negligence of another.