Can You Sue For Pain And Suffering Following A Car Accident?

Posted on Friday, October 9th, 2015 at 5:46 pm    

car crashIf you have been injured in a car accident in Philadelphia due to the negligence of another driver, you are always entitled to compensation for any out-of-pocket expenses and loss of earnings or wages incurred as result of your personal injuries.  In other words, if you had to pay a deductible to have your car fixed following the car accident, or if you had to pay for medical treatment out of your own pocket, you are entitled to be compensated for those expenses, in addition to your wage loss. However, whether you may recover for pain and suffering and other non-financial injuries is usually dependent upon the type of insurance you selected for your own vehicle.

If You Are Full-Tort You Can Always Recover for Pain And Suffering Regardless of How Severe Your Injuries Are

When you purchased motor vehicle insurance for your car, you had to select between limited tort and full tort coverage. Unfortunately, insurance companies often push individuals to select limited tort, which is the cheaper of the two, without fully explaining the consequences of such an election, and without going over the fact that the full tort option is usually not that much more expensive than the limited tort option. If you are one of the lucky ones who elected full tort coverage, you will be allowed to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for pain and suffering resulting from your car accident regardless of whether your injuries are severe or permanent. In other words, if you are involved in a car accident and simply sustain a low back strain or sprain, or minor musculo-skeletal injury that eventually resolves, you are still entitled to seek compensation for the pain and suffering that you endured while the injury lingered.

Uh-Oh, I Selected Limited Tort-Can I Still Sue For Pain And Suffering?

If, like many people, you let the insurance company talk you in to selecting limited tort coverage, should still speak to a lawyer immediately if you were injured as a result of a car accident. Although non-lawyers often tell people that you cannot sue for pain and suffering if you selected limited tort coverage, this is not necessarily true. If you have suffered personal injuries as a result of a car accident but have limited tort coverage you may still sue for pain and suffering if you have sustained a “serious injury” as defined by the statute and legal decisions interpreting the statute. A serious injury is defined as “a personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of a body function or permanent serious disfigurement.” Although one could devote an entire text attempting to summarize what constitutes a “serious impairment of a body function,” suffice to say that the courts look to several factors, including the following:

  • The nature and extent of the injury
  • The particular body function impaired
  • The length of time the impairment lasts
  • The treatment required to correct the impairment

The focus is not on the particular injury such as a low back herniated disc or shoulder rotator cuff tear, but rather on the nature and extent of the impairment or limitations resulting from the injury.  What is “serious” for one person may not be serious for another. Thus, it is important to document your complaints and daily limitations following your auto accident in order to assist the lawyer representing you in your lawsuit and ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. It is worth mentioning that your injuries do not need to be permanent in order for you to receive compensation for pain and suffering following a motor vehicle accident if you have selected limited tort. Additionally, as noted above, you can always recover for your economic losses resulting from a car crash.

There Are Numerous Exceptions To Limited Tort Status Even If Your Injuries Aren’t Deemed “Serious”

Another reason to consult with a lawyer regarding your rights following a car accident is that there are numerous exceptions to the limited tort law in Pennsylvania. The exceptions are as follows:

  1. The Defendant is convicted of DUI or accepts ARD as a result of the car accident
  2. The Defendant is operating a motor vehicle registered in another state
  3. The Defendant intentionally causes the accident
  4. The Defendant fails to carry motor vehicle insurance on his/her vehicle
  5. The injured party is a passenger in a motor vehicle other than a private passenger motor vehicle
  6. The Defendant is in the business of designing, manufacturing, repairing, servicing or otherwise maintaining motor vehicles and the car accident arises out of a defect of such motor vehicle

As you can see above, there are six exceptions to the limited tort law even where the injuries you have sustained as a result of your auto accident are not “serious.” An attorney can best research, investigate and explain to you whether or not one of these exceptions may be applicable to your motor vehicle accident.

Review your auto insurance policies today to determine whether you have selected limited tort or full tort, and make sure to contact your insurance agent immediately if you find that you have been given a limited tort policy.  While we can still pursue limited tort claims and pursue compensation for pain and suffering, it makes more sense to adjust your insurance policies now and obtain the full protection the law has to offer.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, contact one of the lawyers at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC today or call (215) 875-7030 for a free consultation. We don’t get paid unless you do!

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