Personal Injury/Auto Accident FAQs

What is the difference between full tort and limited tort and how does that affect my claim?

I've been in an accident and have elected the limited tort option on my automobile policy, is there any way I can still recover for pain and suffering?

I've been in an automobile accident, but I do not want to go to the hospital because I do not have health care insurance, what should I do?

I have a private health insurance provider, if I seek medical attention after an accident, whom should I submit my medical bills to?

What is the first thing I should do after an accident?

What if the other driver does not have automobile insurance, can I still recover?

Do I need an attorney to negotiate with the other driver's insurance carrier?


Q: What is the difference between full tort and limited tort and how does that affect my claim?

Limited tort, while in the short run is a less expensive automobile insurance option, it could potentially cause you a significant amount of money if you were to ever get into an automobile accident, even if it is the other driver's fault. That is because the limited tort option "limits" your rights by disallowing pain and suffering damages, which are typically the largest part of any personal injury award. The insurance industry is able to offer lower annual insurance rates to those who promise not to sue for pain and suffering by electing the limited tort option; which is a small savings in exchange for the potential recovery for pain and suffering.

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Q: I've been in an accident and have elected the limited tort option on my automobile policy, is there any way I can still recover for pain and suffering?

Yes. While the general rule is that selection of the limited tort option bars recovery for pain and suffering, there are a handful of exceptions:

  1. You were the driver or passenger of a motorcycle;
  2. You were a pedestrian;
  3. You were a passenger on a bus, truck, taxi or other commercial vehicle;
  4. The driver who caused the accident was convicted of drunk driving at the time the accident occurred;
  5. The driver who caused the accident was operating a vehicle registered in a different state such as New Jersey or Delaware;
  6. You suffer a "serious bodily injury" meaning an injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement. This is a very high threshold to overcome.

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Q: I've been in an automobile accident, but I do not want to go to the hospital because I do not have health care insurance, what should I do?

Pennsylvania, by statute, requires all drivers to have a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) as part of your automobile insurance plan. Even if you do not have health insurance by private health insurer, you should be able to submit your medical bills up to the amount listed in your automobile policy to your automobile carrier. Therefore, after an accident if you are injured you should always seek medical attention.

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Q: I have a private health insurance provider, if I seek medical attention after an accident, whom should I submit my medical bills to?

You should always submit your medical bills through your automobile insurance policy first. Once your medical coverage under your automobile policy has been exhausted then switch to your private health care provider. The reason is your private health care provider may be able to recoup the amount of money paid for injuries related to your accident from any recovery you may receive. Your automobile insurance, on the other hand, will not seek reimbursement for the medical bills paid on your behalf from your recovery.

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Q: What is the first thing I should do after an accident?

If you are physically able, contact the police to create a record at the scene. Get the names and contact information from those around you who witnessed the accident including the information from the other driver or drivers. If you have a telephone with a camera, take photographs of the accident scene. If you speak with the other driver carefully document his or her response. Avoid making any admissions or apologies for the accident, these statements, even if intended only to be polite, can come into evidence at a later date against your interest. You should contact your automobile insurance company to report the accident and get checked out by a medical professional. Often times, after an automobile accident, a person does not realize they are injured until the adrenaline wears off. Therefore, it is best to seek medical attention immediately.

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Q: What if the other driver does not have automobile insurance, can I still recover?

While you could potentially sue the vehicle driver personally, chances are if he or she does not have enough money to pay their car insurance premiums then you may have a difficult time collecting a judgment from them. You should, however, check your own automobile policy. There are coverage options called " underinsured" motorist coverage and " uninsured" motorist coverage. If you are hit by someone with little to no insurance coverage, your own insurance company may pay your claim.

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Q: Do I need an attorney to negotiate with the other driver's insurance carrier?

A person may negotiate with the other driver's insurance carrier and make a demand for all the economic and noneconomic damages; however, without the threat of litigation that comes with an attorney, insurance companies typically offer much less.

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