In the recent Pennsylvania case of Herrera v. Baum, Gregoria Herrera was a passenger in a vehicle that was struck from behind and suffered numerous back and knee injuries Ms. Herrera had a car insurance policy on which she elected “limited” rather than “full tort” coverage in order to reduce her premium costs. When she had renewed her coverage, Gregoria checked the boxes next to both tort options, creating an ambiguity.
When she filed a claim for damages as a result of the accident, Ms. Herrera was confronted with a provision in the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code which states that a claimant who chooses “limited tort” cannot recover for non-economic damages (pain and suffering), with some narrow exceptions. Despite her attempt to change her coverage on the renewal form, the Superior Court concluded that Ms. Herrera was still bound by her prior “limited tort” election. Therefore, she would be unable to recover anything for pain and suffering unless she could show that her injury created a “substantial” bodily impairment – which can be very difficult to prove in court.
This case demonstrates the importance of choosing the “full tort” option when purchasing car insurance. Many times a prior decision to select the less-expensive “limited tort” option can reduce the value of a claim by thousands of dollars.