In prior blog posts, we have written about the exceptions to the Limited Tort Option in Pennsylvania that allow individuals who have selected this option to recover non-economic damages as if they had elected the Full Tort Option on their auto insurance policies.  These exceptions are as follows:
  1. The individual at fault for the accident is convicted or accepts ARD for driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance;
  2. The individual at fault for the accident is operating an out of state vehicle;
  3. The individual at fault for the accident intends to injure himself or another person;
  4. The individual at fault for the accident has failed to comply with the minimum auto insurance requirements under Pennsylvania law;
  5. Claims against a manufacturer arising out of a defect in a motor vehicle; and
  6. The injured individual is injured while an occupant of a commercial motor vehicle.
Now that we have the exceptions out of the way, I am here to break some bad news.  The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has determined that these exceptions do not apply to uninsured (UM) or underinsured (UIM) motor vehicle claims!  See Rump v. Aetna Casualty, 710 A.2d 1093 (Pa. 1998).
 
In short, many drivers pay increased premiums for UM coverage, which provides insurance coverage if you are hit by an uninsured driver or you are injured in a hit and run accident, and/or UIM coverage, which provides additional insurance coverage where the driver that hit you has insufficient coverage to fully compensate you for your injuries.  
 
This increased payment may go to waste if you have elected the Limited Tort Option.  For example, let’s imagine you have elected the Limited Tort Option and you are also carrying $100,000 in UM coverage.  You are hit by an uninsured driver who you later learn was convicted of DUI in relation to the accident.  In this situation, you may be precluded from recovering damages for your injuries even though you have paid for UM benefits for this very situation.  This is because the DUI exception does not apply to UM claims.
 
As I tell my clients, if you are looking to save money on your auto insurance premium, look to save somewhere other than the tort option.  I have seen too many situations in which injured people are precluded from recovery because they opted to save some money by selecting the Limited Tort Option on their auto insurance policy.
 
Ian Abovitz is a member of Stark & Stark’s Yardley, PA office, specializing in Accident & Personal Injury Law. For more information, please contact Mr. Abovitz.