Is Pennsylvania a No-Fault State?

Last Updated on December 18, 2022

Pennsylvania is one of 12 states considered a “no-fault” state.

Because Pennsylvania is a no-fault state, you make a claim through your own insurer after an accident, regardless of fault. Your own insurer covers medical bills, lost wages, and certain other expenses.

However, drivers in Pennsylvania can choose whether or not to participate in the no-fault insurance system. Like certain other states, Pennsylvania gives drivers a choice.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about Pennsylvania’s no-fault system and how it impacts auto insurance.

Table of Contents:

How Pennsylvania’s No-Fault Insurance System Works

Most states in America are “fault” or “tort” states. In most states, the “at fault” driver in an accident is legally required to pay any expenses, including personal injury costs (like your medical bills) and property damage (like the cost of repairing your vehicle.

In Pennsylvania, however, things work differently. Pennsylvania is one of 12 “no-fault” states in the country. In Pennsylvania, all parties involved in an accident make a claim through their own insurance company regardless of fault.

If someone collides with you at an intersection, for example, then you collect compensation for lost wages and medical bills from your own insurance company – even though you weren’t at fault for the accident.

Pennsylvania’s no-fault insurance system does not extend to property damage. The at-fault driver covers property damage, including the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle after an accident.

Pennsylvania’s no-fault insurance system also limits your ability to sue other drivers after an accident. Because you receive compensation from your own insurance company, you may not be able to sue other drivers for those same expenses.

However, Pennsylvania is unique compared to other states because drivers have an option when purchasing auto insurance: you can choose whether or not to participate in the no-fault system.

Pennsylvania Drivers Choose Between Limited Tort and Full Tort Auto Insurance

When you buy auto insurance in Pennsylvania, you choose between limited tort and full tort auto insurance.

In other words, drivers choose whether they want to participate in Pennsylvania’s no-fault insurance system or with a traditional fault-based insurance system.

Here’s how it works:

Limited Tort: If you choose a limited tort auto insurance policy, you are choosing the no-fault insurance system. If you are involved in an accident, then you receive compensation for lost wages and medical bills through your own insurer, and you may not be able to file a lawsuit to receive compensation from the at-fault party.

Full Tort: Under full tort insurance, you are declining to participate in Pennsylvania’s no-fault insurance system. That means you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault party in an accident to receive compensation.

You Have a Limited Ability to Sue Under Pennsylvania’s No-Fault Insurance System

Pennsylvania’s no-fault insurance system limits your ability to sue other drivers after an accident.

If another driver injures you in an accident, for example, then you cannot file a lawsuit against the other driver for emotional distress, pain and suffering, and certain other non-monetary expenses.

However, you can still file a lawsuit against another driver for serious injuries, accidents involving death, and other major incidents. You could receive compensation for certain expenses from the at-fault driver in a lawsuit.

If you have injuries from an accident beyond soft tissue injuries, then you could file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. However, you cannot file a lawsuit for most minor injuries.

No-Fault Rules Do Not Apply to Property Damage

If another driver damages your vehicle in Pennsylvania, the other driver must cover that property damage. Property damage does not fall under Pennsylvania’s no-fault insurance system.

Even if you choose Pennsylvania’s limited tort option, you receive compensation from the at-fault driver for damage to your vehicle and other property.

If another driver crashes into your vehicle and causes $5,000 of damage, for example, the other driver must cover the cost of repairing your vehicle to pre-loss condition. You would receive $5,000 in compensation from the other driver (or the other driver’s insurance company).

Medical bills, lost wages, and certain other expenses, meanwhile, fall under Pennsylvania’s no-fault insurance system.

Limited Tort Versus Full Tort in Pennsylvania: Pros and Cons

Drivers in Pennsylvania can choose to participate in the limited tort or full tort insurance system. There are pros and cons to each system.

  • Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of choosing the limited tort or full tort system:
  • Most people choose limited tort because it’s less expensive. Limited tort insurance tends to have lower insurance premiums.
  • Full tort insurance tends to be more expensive, and you’ll pay higher monthly insurance premiums with full tort insurance.
  • The main disadvantage of limited tort insurance is that it prevents the driver from filing a lawsuit after an accident. If you are seriously injured in an accident, you may not be able to receive full compensation for your loss because of your inability to file a lawsuit.
  • Instead of receiving compensation for non-monetary expenses like pain and suffering and emotional distress after an accident, for example, you may only receive compensation for monetary expenses like medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and vehicle repair expenses.
  • Many personal injury lawyers recommend choosing the full tort option because it gives them more business. However, most drivers in Pennsylvania choose the limited tort option to save money.

Unless you’re involved in a serious accident involving major injuries, you’re more likely to come out ahead with limited tort insurance in Pennsylvania. However, a single serious accident could make full tort insurance the better option. It’s up to you to decide which option is best for you based on your aversion to risk, budget, and likelihood of filing a lawsuit after an accident.

Pennsylvania Auto Insurance Requirements

Whether you choose the limited tort or full tort option in Pennsylvania, you must meet certain requirements. The state of Pennsylvania requires you to maintain the following minimum amount of insurance coverage at all times, including:

  • $15,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per person
  • $30,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per accident
  • $5,000 of property damage liability coverage
  • $5,000 in first-party medical benefits coverage (i.e., personal injury protection)

Any car insurance policy you purchase in Pennsylvania will meet these requirements at a minimum. Most drivers exceed these requirements for added protection. Even a minor accident can quickly exceed the minimum limits above, and you would be forced to pay the remaining expenses out of pocket.

Final Word – Pennsylvania No-Fault Laws

Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states with a no-fault insurance system. However, Pennsylvania also lets drivers choose whether or not to participate in that system.

Drivers in Pennsylvania can choose between limited tort (no-fault) insurance and full tort (fault-based) insurance coverage. Limited tort insurance is cheaper and more popular but limits your ability to file a lawsuit after an accident.

Compare insurance quotes or contact an insurance agent in Pennsylvania today to find the best auto insurance for your unique needs.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for InsurancePanda.com and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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