Shopping around for car insurance? It can be difficult to compare different insurance policies, especially when you’re not fully certain what you’re comparing.

Bodily injury liability is a common term that you might have come across without being quite sure what it’s all about. Let us walk you through bodily injury liability coverage so you can be certain that you’re making the best choice.

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Now, more on what bodily injury liability coverage means for your auto insurance plan….

How is bodily injury liability defined?

Bodily injury liability is a common part of auto insurance coverage. It refers to the amount of money that you’d be responsible for if someone else is injured in a car accident that you caused or were a part of. You must be responsible for the medical bills incurred by the injuries in question in order to be liable for them.

For example, if you (Driver A) were involved in a car accident with two other cars (Driver B and Driver C) and Driver C was injured as a result of Driver B, you would not be liable. On the other hand, if you or your car injured either driver, you’d be glad to have a good liability insurance policy.

Bodily injury liability coverage is similar to property damage liability coverage, except instead of covering the other party’s car, this type of coverage covers the other party’s well-being.

“Bodily injury” isn’t just something that happens to the other driver, however. Pedestrians, passengers in your car, and passengers in another vehicle can all be injured in auto accidents. Your bodily injury coverage will protect you in case any of these people are physically harmed as the result of an accident.

How bodily injury liability insurance works

Having bodily injury liability coverage as part of your auto insurance policy protects you from paying out of pocket to cover the injured party’s medical expenses. In most states, bodily injury liability coverage is a required part of any auto insurance policy. However, the terms are largely up to the consumer. While it may be tempting to get a paltry policy, the peace of mind you get from having more substantive coverage might be worth it.

Most auto insurance policies have “split limit” liability coverage. That means the policy sets separate limits for each type of liability coveragebodily injury liability coverage per person, total bodily injury liability per accident, and property damage liability coverage per accident. Liability coverage is written in the form of XX / XX / XX.

Choosing your bodily injury liability limits

When a state requires bodily injury liability as part of your car insurance policy, they often come with required liability coverage limits, or “minimum limits,” as well. This is the minimum amount of bodily injury liability coverage that’s legally allowed.

Illinois, for example, requires $25,000 bodily injury liability per person and $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage per accident. This means, provided the other party’s medical bills don’t exceed $50,000, you won’t need to pay any money out of pocket. Don’t worry—when you purchase insurance, your insurance company won’t let you buy a policy without reaching these limits.

While that might sound like a large sum of money, consider the consumer cost of medical care in the United States—it’s a lot! Springing for a little more coverage will likely come in handy should you find yourself in a severe car accident.

Five states that don’t technically require car insurance? ArizonaMississippiNew HampshireTexas, and Virginia. Although auto insurance might not be law, these states do require motorists to prove they can pay their way in the event of an accident.

How is bodily injury liability different from personal injury protection?

Personal injury protection, also known as PIP insurance or no-fault insurance, is a type of insurance coverage that actually covers you or your passengers rather than people in another car. This type of insurance kicks in whether or not you’re at fault. Currently, 16 states in the U.S. require PIP insurance as a normal part of car insurance coverage. In addition to helping you out with medical payments, PIP can cover loss of income if the accident renders you unable to work. Finally, if the worst happens, PIP will likely also cover some funeral costs. This type of coverage makes PIP a little more robust than your normal health insurance policy, which won’t cover lost income or funeral expenses. Some PIP insurance policies even cover household expenses, like cleaning or maintenance, if your injuries make it impossible for you to complete these chores.

What about an umbrella policy?

If you don’t feel like your state’s minimum required coverage is enough for you, you may opt to spring for an umbrella policy. This type of insurance goes a few steps beyond your garden-variety liability insurance by offering you enhanced coverage for both property damage liability and bodily injury liability. It might even cover your legal defense should you find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

Do you feel a little more confident about what bodily injury liability coverage is? We hope so! Like most other types of insurance, we hope you won’t ever need to use it—but if you do, you’ll be glad you have it.

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Updated April 29, 2021

Alex Lancaster is a writer, traveler, and cat person living in Southern California. With a background in copywriting and content strategy, she loves simplifying the complex and making connections.