call

Full Tort vs. Limited Tort: Should You Limit Your Right to Sue?

A full tort system places no restrictions on a driver’s right to sue the liable driver in a car accident, while limited tort systems permit only drivers with costly or severe injuries, such as death or dismemberment, to sue. Limited tort systems are available only in the 12 states — the remaining 38 states use the full tort system. Drivers in limited tort states can choose between a full tort or limited tort system.

We’ll explain how each system works and the pros and cons of each.

What Is a Tort?

In the context of auto insurance, a tort refers to a driver’s ability to sue another driver for losses and pain and suffering after a car accident. There are two types of torts: full and limited. Full tort insurance places no restrictions on an individual’s ability to sue another driver after an accident, but these restrictions apply with limited tort insurance.

Full Tort vs. Limited Tort

Below we highlight key differences in the right to sue, insurance claims process and cost between states with limited tort and full tort systems.

 

Limited Tort

Full Tort

Right to Sue At-Fault Driver

Driver must experience significant medical expenses or suffered serious injury

No restrictions

Financial Liability

Each driver’s insurance company reimburses their policyholder for medical expenses under no-fault insurance

At-fault driver responsible for covering the other party’s medical bills

Cost

Less expensive

More expensive

Compare Auto Insurance and Explore Many Benefits

What Is Limited Tort Coverage?

Limited tort coverage refers to restrictions on a person’s right to sue the at-fault driver for damages as well as pain and suffering that resulted from a car accident. Also called tort thresholds, these restrictions require individuals to meet a minimum level of medical or financial burden. Two types of tort thresholds exist: monetary and verbal.

  • Monetary: The injured party’s financial burden (e.g., medical bills) must reach a minimum dollar amount.
  • Verbal: The injured party’s injuries must reach a certain level of severity (e.g., death, dismemberment).

Tort thresholds will vary by state. For example, the monetary tort threshold is $5,000 in Hawaii and $2,000 in Kansas. A Kansas driver cannot sue a driver if their medical bills total $700 but can sue if the bill totals $2,500. Tort thresholds help clear courts of minor injury claims, freeing the judge’s resources to handle claims involving severe injuries.

States with limited tort coverage require no-fault insurance, also called personal injury protection (PIP). Although limited tort insurance restricts your right to sue, no-fault insurance will pay for your medical expenses, lost wages and funeral fees. With no need to determine fault and file a claim with the liable driver’s insurer, claim payouts tend to happen more quickly with no-fault insurance.

Limited tort states restrict a person’s right to sue the at-fault driver for damages as well as pain and suffering that resulted from a car accident.

Purchasing limited tort insurance is generally cheaper than full tort coverage. However, the lower costs mean sacrificing your right to sue for pain and suffering. No-fault insurance will reimburse you for your medical expenses but not for pain and suffering.

Pros

Cons

Cheaper than full tort coverage

Cannot sue for pain and suffering unless you reach tort threshold

Faster claim payouts

 

Clears courts of minor injury claims

 

What Is Full Tort Coverage?

Drivers with full tort coverage have an unrestricted right to sue the negligent driver in a car accident for losses plus pain and suffering. With no thresholds in place, drivers can sue the liable driver for $100,000 or $10,000 in losses or as little as $500.

Full tort insurance places no restrictions on an individual’s ability to sue another driver after an accident.

Full tort coverage is the only option available in 38 states. Insurers in the remaining 12 states may allow their customers to choose between full tort or limited tort insurance.

Full tort coverage costs more, but you have an unrestricted right to sue for pain and suffering. No-fault insurance in limited tort systems will reimburse you for your medical costs, but not pain and suffering.

Example: After a car accident, you are recovering for several months. You can’t go to work, see your friends or attend events.  In a limited tort system, you can only sue for the loss of quality in your life — your pain and suffering — unless you meet the tort threshold. In a full tort system without thresholds, you can.

Although full tort coverage generally costs more, you always have the right to sue for pain and suffering (on top of your property damages and medical bills).

Pros

Cons

Unrestricted right to sue the liable driver for medical injuries, property damages and pain and suffering

More expensive than limited tort insurance

Which States Use Tort vs. No-Fault Systems?

Thirty-eight states use the full tort system. The remaining 12 states offer no-fault insurance and drivers may choose between full tort or limited tort insurance. No-fault insurance is available in these 12 states:

  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Utah
  • Kentucky
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania

Keep in mind that no-fault insurance is not available in the 38 full tort states. Drivers will need medical payments coverage or to file a claim against the other driver for medical expense reimbursement.

States with limited tort coverage require no-fault insurance, also called personal injury protection (PIP).

Below, we’ve summarized the tort thresholds in the 12 states with limited tort systems. Recall that monetary thresholds measure the financial cost of a driver’s losses and verbal thresholds measure the severity of an injury (e.g., death, dismemberment, permanent disfigurement).

Limited Tort State

Tort Threshold

Florida

Verbal

Hawaii

$5,000

Kansas

$2,000

Massachusetts

$2,000

Michigan

Verbal

Minnesota

$4,000

New York

Verbal

North Dakota

$2,500

Utah

$3,000

Kentucky

$1,000 or Verbal

New Jersey

Verbal

Pennsylvania

Verbal

How Much Does Limited Tort vs. Full Tort Cost?

Limited tort coverage can cost 40% less than full tort coverage according to Unruh Insurance Agency Inc. Keep in mind that limited tort policies may enjoy cheaper premiums but drivers must meet tort thresholds if they intend to sue another party after an auto accident.

Drivers in full tort states will need medical payments coverage or to file a claim against the other driver for medical expense reimbursement.

Below, we’ve shared average annual rates in the 12 states that offer limited tort coverage and what 40% savings can look like.

State

Average Annual Rate

40% Less

Florida

$1,505.90

$903.54

Hawaii

$955.65

$573.39

Kansas

$998.54

$599.12

Massachusetts

$1,261.84

$757.10

Michigan

$1,620.01

$972.01

Minnesota

$991.07

$594.64

New York

$1,575.13

$945.08

North Dakota

$861.37

$516.82

Utah

$1,050.70

$630.42

Kentucky

$1,086.00

$651.60

New Jersey

$1,510.58

$906.35

Pennsylvania

$1,102.76

$661.66

Note: The average annual rates above do not account for differences in tort laws. The 40% savings figures are used for illustration purposes only and actual rates can vary.

Compare Auto Insurance and Explore Many Benefits

FAQs

Is full tort the same as full coverage?

A full tort system and full coverage are two different things. Full tort refers to a driver’s unrestricted right to sue another driver for pain and suffering. Full coverage is an automobile insurance policy with collision and comprehensive in addition to state requirements.

Can you sue if you have limited tort insurance?

Drivers with limited tort insurance can sue the at-fault driver in a car accident only if their injuries reach a severity or financial cost threshold. For example, North Dakota drivers can only sue another driver if the cost of their losses exceeds the tort threshold of $2,500.

Can you sue in Pennsylvania with limited tort?

Yes, Pennsylvania drivers can sue another driver for pain, suffering and damages but only if they sustain a serious injury from the car accident. Severe injuries typically include death, permanent disfigurement or dismemberment.

Do I want full or limited tort?

Limited tort insurance is ideal if you want a cheaper car insurance policy at the cost of restricting your right to sue. Full tort systems are more expensive but any driver can bring a lawsuit against the liable driver in a car accident without needing to meet an injury severity or financial burden threshold.

Key Takeaways

  • Full tort insurance gives drivers an unrestricted right to sue an at-fault driver for damages and pain and suffering.
  • Limited tort insurance requires drivers to meet a tort threshold of injury severity or financial burden before they sue an at-fault driver for losses and pain suffering.
  • Verbal tort thresholds measure the severity of an injury sustained from a car accident and monetary thresholds measure the cost of medical treatment.
  • Limited tort insurance is available in 12 states, while the remaining 38 states use a full tort system.

Find the cheapest auto insurance in your state. SmartFinancial’s FREE online tool analyzes car insurance companies in your area to bring you the best policy based on your answers to a few questions about your insurance coverage needs and budget. Just enter your zip code below or call 855.214.2291 to receive your free car insurance quotes.

Methodology

SmartFinancial obtained average premium rates for collision coverage by state and nationwide from a 2022 report by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC): 2018/2019 Auto Insurance Database Report. NAIC calculated premiums using policies underwritten in 2019. Average annual rates did not account for differences in state auto and tort laws. Actual rates can vary and consumers should use these figures only for comparative purposes.

Get a Free Auto Insurance Quote Online Now.