Breaching the Limited Tort Threshold

When purchasing automobile insurance you have the option of selecting full tort coverage or limited tort coverage. Full tort coverage means that you and your family have unlimited access to the court system to seek compensation for personal injuries from a car wreck. As implied by its title, in exchange for a lower premium, limited tort provides you and your family members with limited access to the court system if you are claiming compensation for personal injuries following a car wreck.

Generally, individuals with limited tort coverage are precluded from recovering for non-economic damages. However, an exception exists. Pursuant to the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, individuals covered by a limited tort policy may only recover for non-economic loss, such as pain and suffering, if they sustained a “serious injury.” Thus, if a person suffers a “serious injury” there exists an exception to a waiver of full tort coverage. The term “serious injury” has been defined by statute as “death, serious impairment of bodily function or permanent, serious disfigurement.” 75 Pa.C.S.A. §1702.

Pennsylvania courts have further interpreted the term “serious injury.” Specifically, there is much ambiguity in applying the term “serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement.” The courts have adopted a case-by-case approach to interpreting the term “serious.” “Several factors must be considered to determine if the claimed injury is ‘serious’ [1] the extent of the impairment, [2] the length of time the impairment lasted, [3] the treatment required to correct the impairment, and [4] any other relevant factors.” Graham v. Campo, 990 A.2d 9, 16 (Pa. Super. 2010). Further, “the focus of these inquiries is not on the injuries themselves, but on how the injuries affected a particular body function.” Washington, 719 A.2d at 740. An “impairment need not be permanent to be serious.” Robinson v. Upole, 750 A.2d 339, 342 (Pa. Super. 2000). Further, how a particular injury affects a specific plaintiff may result in the injury being deemed “serious.” Long v Mejia, 896 A.2d 596 (Pa. Super. 2006).

In the event you are injured in an automobile accident and have a limited tort policy, consult with an attorney at Buzgon Davis Law Offices to gain a better understanding of whether your injury may qualify as “serious” under Pennsylvania law and breach the limited tort threshold.

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