The answer is “Certainly not!” Auto insurance consumers have the option of reducing their rights in exchange for reduced premiums, but that bargain does not mean that you can never pursue a claim when you are injured in an automobile accident. You retain essentially all of the rights you have in claims against your own insurance company, such as for medical expenses, lost wages, car rental, vehicle repair, etc. Further, you have not given up all rights to bring a claim for pain, suffering and inconvenience against the responsible driver. All that you have given up is the right to pursue such claims if your injuries are not “serious” as the Pennsylvania motor vehicle insurance law defines it. If you or a loved one have sustained a catastrophic injury limited tort is not an issue.
Of course, there is much dispute in any given case as to whether or not an injury is serious. The courts are not generally concerned with the name of a particular injury when determining whether or not it is serious. Rather, the courts attempt to discern whether the injury has had a significant impact on one’s life for a significant period of time. The injury need not be permanent to be considered serious, but it must involve a serious impairment of a body function, and be more than a passing problem. So long as there is some significant evidence of a serious injury the courts will permit the jury to make the ultimate decision as to whether or not the injury is serious.
Additionally, limited tort is eliminated from consideration in other circumstances. Examples of these exceptions are cases in which the responsible driver is operating a vehicle registered in a another state, where the other driver is uninsured, or where the other driver is found to be guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance.
Furthermore, limited tort applies only to noneconomic damages, and in no way limits your right to obtain recovery from the responsible party for economic damages that the accident has caused. This would include any medical expense or lost wages that are not otherwise reimbursed, and other incidental monetary damages.
So, do not assume that you cannot pursue a remedy simply because you have chosen limited tort. It was only intended to eliminate the non-serious injury cases from the court system, and by definition cases involving serious injuries are in no way limited. There are other exceptions to limited tort as well. Please call us at 412-288-4786 if you have any questions about your particular automobile accident case.