Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 18, 2020

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Most states are either “fault” states (holding the driver at fault legally responsible for paying for a car accident) or “no fault” states (requiring each party in the car accident to collect medical bills and lost wages from their own insurers, irrespective of fault). In most states, determining fault vs. no fault rules can be as simple as looking at your policy. But Pennsylvania’s car accident rules are unique, and the concepts involved are more complex than most.

Pennsylvania is one of a very few states that uses something called “choice no fault” rules. This essentially means that you can either opt in or opt out of “no fault” rules. The catch is, you have to do this when you buy your insurance – you can’t do it after a car accident has happened.

Understanding Pennsylvania No Fault Rules

Pennsylvania law requires that you be provided with two options when buying car insurance:

  • Full Tort
  • Limited Tort

If you opt for full tort, then you are essentially opting out of the no fault system. If you select limited tort, however, then you are opting in, meaning you cannot file a lawsuit for most car accident situations. Instead, you will be limited to making a claim with your insurance provider. This claim will cover your medical bills and your lost wages if a car accident injury causes you to miss work. However, it will not allow you to obtain any compensation for pain and suffering or for emotional distress, even if the other party is 100 percent at fault, unless your case falls into one of a very limited array of exceptions to the no fault rules. Limited tort coverage allows you to save some money on your policy at the time when you buy car insurance. Generally, however, many experts advise against choosing limited tort coverage because of the limitations imposed on your right to collect damages in the event of a car accident.

Getting Help with Pennsylvania Car Insurance Selection

If you are purchasing car insurance, before you make the choice for limited tort, you should consult with an experienced lawyer or other professional to make sure you really understand what you are giving up. If you have already been involved in a car accident, you should speak with a lawyer to get help finding out what your insurance policy coverage is, what it means, and how you can best go about recovering compensation for your injuries. An experienced car accident attorney in Pennsylvania will be familiar with the laws specific to the state and can help you protect your rights.