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Limited Tort Plaintiff Must Show "Serious Injury" to Recover for Pain and Suffering

Under the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law a person who selects Limited Tort coverage is generally not permitted to recover money for pain and suffering (non-economic damages) from the person who caused the car crash.  One of the exceptions to this rule is when the person injured in the car crash can establish that he or she suffered a "serious injury." 

In Pennsylvania, "Serious Injury" is defined as --A personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement.  75 Pa. C.S. § 1702.  Pennsylvania courts have primarily considered cases involving serious impairment of bodily function in determining if the limited tort exclusion can be overcome.  In these cases the courts look at what bodily function was impaired because of the motor vehicle accident and if the impairment of that bodily function was serious.  To make this determination the courts look at a variety of factors including the exenteration of the impairment, the type of treatment(s) required, and the length of the impairment. 

Serious impairment, warranting the case to go to the jury, has been found when the impairment results in changes to the claimants professional and leisure activities (i.e. missing work for more than one month), the length of treatment for the impairment is greater than one year; and when there is medical evidence to establish that the injury is permanent. 

Limited Tort selection is decision that has real world impact.  An impact that many are unaware of until a serious injury in a motor vehicle accident occurs. 

Source:  "Availability of Summary Judgment for "Serious Injury", Michael Heyden, The Legal Intelligencer

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