Accident and insurance laws are complicated and many people like to think knowing about them is really on an “as needed” basis. It’s true. Most people do not think about their car insurance coverage and what it means if they get into an accident until they actually get into an accident. Whether you have recently been in an accident, are in the process of buying auto insurance, or are interested in Pennsylvania personal injury law, we are here to go over some of the basics. In particular, we want to focus on a discussion of Pennsylvania’s limited tort serious injury threshold and what it means for you if you ever get into a car accident.
Pennsylvania’s Limited Tort Serious Injury Threshold
When you go to buy auto insurance in Pennsylvania, you have the choice to carry either full or limited tort insurance. Limited tort insurance coverage is more affordable and, because of this, it is the more popular choice. The catch is, however, that, if you are in an accident, you cannot recover pain and suffering damages if you have limited tort coverage. There is one exception to this and that is if you, the accident victim, have sustained a serious injury in the accident. If you can meet the serious injury threshold, then you will be able to go after pain and suffering damages regardless of having limited tort coverage.
What does it mean to have a serious injury? Well, that is a very good question without one set answer. Pennsylvania law is extremely vague on the topic. You can get a sense of what may be considered a serious injury based on some examples of other conditions that have been considered to be serious injuries. Some serious injuries or impairments that have qualified to surmount the limited tort serious injury threshold include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Head injuries (including concussions)
- Hearing loss
- Broken bones
- Herniated discs
You see, these are injuries that could objectively be considered to be serious injuries. There are, of course, a number of other injuries that may not be so clearly considered to be serious. Consider for example, a bulging disc in the cervical or lumbar spine. This can be a painful injury with debilitating impacts on a person’s life. However, there could be a robust discussion as to whether or not it should be considered a serious injury and, thus, overcome the serious injury threshold.
When an injury falls into the gray area between serious and potentially not serious, evidence to support that the injury has resulted in a serious impairment of a bodily function will be critical in supporting your claim. The injury victim’s testimony will, of course, be important. Beyond that, however, things like expert testimony from doctors and medical professionals in the relevant fields can also be essential to the claim’s success. Extensive medical reports and diagnostic test results are also likely to play a pivotal role.