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Each year, about one percent of all drivers file a bodily injury liability claim, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). Though the risk seems small, all things being equal, you have a 26 percent chance of filing a claim over 30 years. So it’s important to know what bodily injury protection is, what it covers, and how much you need. Luckily, we cover all of that below.

Did you know that car insurance comparison can save you time and money on bodily injury insurance? Insurify’s free quote-comparison tool allows you to search, compare, and secure car insurance all in one place.

Quick Facts

  • Bodily injury liability protection covers financial losses you cause to another person’s body including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

  • This coverage is required in most states.

  • Raising liability limits and/or purchasing an umbrella policy can extend your coverage limits and better protect you and the people you share the road with.

What is bodily injury liability insurance?

What’s Bodily Injury Liability?

When you’re at fault for a car accident, your bodily injury car insurance coverage kicks in to cover medical bills and more for the people you injure in the incident.

Bodily injury liability insurance is one part of your liability car insurance policy. It covers the financial costs of damages you cause to another person’s body while driving. If you injure someone in a car accident you’re at fault for, it’s your bodily injury protection that kicks in to cover those losses.

Exactly what it covers and how much it covers will depend on how you design your car insurance policy. It can also depend on your state. In no-fault car insurance states, for example, each driver is responsible for covering their minor medical bills and those of their passengers, no matter who is at fault for the accident.

Always check with your insurance agent if you have any questions about what your policy covers.

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What is the purpose of bodily injury liability insurance?

Bodily injury liability insurance is meant to protect you and the people around you from large financial losses. Because any car accident can be life-changing—physically and financially—drivers are often required to carry insurance policies that buffer these losses.

Without this type of liability coverage, at-fault drivers and the victims in a car accident could both be bankrupted by a single incident.

What does bodily injury liability insurance cover?

What’s covered and not covered by bodily injury protection varies depending on your policy and state regulations. That being said, there are a few things that are usually covered under this type of coverage:

  • Medical expenses: This includes hospital bills, doctor’s visits, physical therapy, and other ongoing care.

  • Loss of income: If someone can’t work because of an injury you caused, your insurance will cover all or part of their wages directly lost due to the accident.

  • Pain and suffering: Some states allow people to sue for pain and suffering, which is the recuperation of losses due to psychological pain or a chronic physical condition.

  • Funeral costs: If someone dies as a result of an accident you caused, your insurance can help cover the costs of a funeral.

  • Legal fees: If you’re sued by someone injured in an accident you caused, liability coverage will pay for your legal defense and court costs.

Keep in mind that your liability protection may not cover you if you were breaking the law. For example, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can void your insurance. Exclusions like this should be listed in the “exclusions” section of your policy documents. Be sure to ask questions about exclusions if you’re unsure how your policy works.

Who is covered by bodily injury protection?

Bodily injury protection covers medical costs for the people you injure in an at-fault accident. That includes:

  • The other driver

  • The other driver’s passengers

  • Your passengers

  • Pedestrian bystanders

But there’s one person who’s not on this list: you. In most cases, you are not covered by your bodily injury protection coverage. Depending on state laws, your medical bills can be covered by:

If you live in a no-fault state, the injuries to passengers in your car may be covered by PIP insurance.

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What are the coverage limits for bodily injury liability insurance?

The coverage limits for bodily injury protection vary according to the policy. Every policy will state its exact limits, both the limit per injured person and the limit per accident. These limits are represented most often this way:

Bodily injury coverage per person / Bodily injury coverage per accident

If your bodily injury coverage limits are “25/50,” you’re covered for $25,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $50,000 of bodily injury protection per accident. So, if three people sustain damages of $25,000 (for a total of $75,000), you’re stuck covering a third of those costs. Even though each person’s loss is within your coverage limit, the total loss exceeds the total coverage limit per accident.

What is the difference between bodily injury and property damage liability?

Bodily injury liability covers losses related to the damage you’ve caused to another person’s body while driving your car. Damages can include physical and psychological harm.

Property damage liability insurance is the final piece of liability protection. It covers losses related to the damage you’ve caused to property. That can include another person’s car, home, and other belongings. It doesn’t cover damages to your property—you need collision coverage and comprehensive coverage for that.

Both coverage types come with their own coverage limits and fine print about what is and isn’t covered. The reason you see property damage combined with bodily injury is because they’re both part of liability insurance—the type of insurance that protects you when you make a mistake. Liability insurance coverage limits are split limit, represented shorthand this way:

Bodily injury coverage per person / Bodily injury coverage per accident / Property damage liability coverage

So a “100/300/100” policy covers you for $100,000 of bodily injury liability per person, $300,000 of bodily injury liability per accident, and $100,000 of property damage liability.

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How much bodily injury liability coverage do I need?

How much coverage you need—i.e., your coverage limit—depends on a few factors. First, you need the minimum amount to meet legal insurance requirements. No insurance company will issue a policy that doesn’t meet state requirements, so you’ll always get coverage that at least meets state minimum limits. But should you carry more than the minimum?

Most of the time, it’s a great idea to carry higher policy limits. Increasing your limits gives you a ton of added protection should you cause a serious accident. Even minor accidents can come with expensive medical bills. Consider this: you hit a car with a driver and three passengers. Each person seeks $15,000 in medical expenses, a total of $60,000.

In most states, this amount would exceed minimum liability coverage by $10,000 or more. When your coverage limits run out, you’re stuck paying what’s left. This is why we recommend raising your coverage limits to at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. What’s more, increasing liability coverage limits often does little to raise your insurance rate.

How much does higher liability insurance cost?

You can use the Insurify car insurance comparison tool to see the costs of raising your coverage limits in real time. Go to your results page and select your coverage limit from the left margin. In states where minimum coverage is less than standard protection, you should have four options:

  • State minimum coverage: <50/100

  • Standard protection: 50/100

  • Asset protection: 100/300

  • Premium protection: 250/500

As you click through these options, your quotes will change accordingly. For many drivers, the cost difference between state minimums and asset protection is less than $20 a month.

What happens if I don’t have bodily injury liability insurance?

First, if you don’t have bodily injury liability protection or a legal substitute, you’re breaking the law. All but a handful of states require anyone who drives on a public road to carry liability protection. And even in states that don’t require it, drivers without liability insurance must show a legal alternative.

Why do so many states have these requirements? Because your liability insurance protects others on the road. If you cause an accident that creates a medical emergency for someone else, they’re stuck paying those bills, losing time at work, and possibly dealing with expensive chronic health issues for a long time.

If you have liability coverage, your insurance provider will cover these expenses, up to coverage limits. If you don’t, the other driver can sue you for damages. You’ll need to provide your own lawyer and arrange to make court appearances. You could go bankrupt in the process. Not to mention, your car insurance will now be more costly, and you may even lose the right to drive.

Carrying liability protection is not only what’s legally required, it’s also in your best interest and the best interests of your community. Never drive without being legally insured.

Should I buy an umbrella policy along with bodily injury liability insurance?

An umbrella insurance policy offers people additional liability coverage on the road and elsewhere. It covers your liability costs in excess of coverage limits with other insurance policies. For example, if you cause injuries to others in a car accident and exceed your limits by $10,000, your umbrella policy will cover the difference without an additional deductible.

Best of all, umbrella insurance is inexpensive for most people. Savvy policyholders get an umbrella policy from their car insurance company. That often qualifies them for a bundling or multi-policy discount, which offsets the cost of the new policy. Sometimes, the discount is enough to cover the cost of umbrella coverage entirely.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • We recommend setting your bodily injury liability limits to at least asset protection limits. That’s coverage of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. But you are allowed to set your coverage limit to anything that is legal and that your car insurance company is willing to write.

  • Bodily injury protection is one part of liability insurance. The other part is property damage protection. Together, these two coverage types make up a single car insurance liability policy, depending on the rules in your state.

  • In an auto insurance policy, if coverage limits are $250,000/$500,000, you’re covered for bodily injury liability up to $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident. This is also known as premium protection and is generally the maximum amount people can purchase for personal auto insurance.

  • In states that don’t use the “no-fault” system, your passengers are covered by your bodily injury insurance. In no-fault states, your passengers will be covered by your personal injury protection (subject to its own limits) and their health insurance. Be sure to speak with your agent to understand exactly how your insurance covers your passengers when you are at fault.

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  • Data scientists at Insurify analyzed more than 40 million real-time auto insurance rates from our partner providers across the United States to compile the car insurance quotes, statistics, and data visualizations displayed on this page. The car insurance data includes coverage analysis and details on drivers' vehicles, driving records, and demographic information. Quotes for Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, State Farm, and USAA are estimates based on Quadrant Information Service's database of auto insurance rates. With these insights, Insurify is able to offer drivers insight into how companies price their car insurance premiums.

JJ Starr
JJ StarrInsurance Writer

J.J. Starr is a health and finance writer with a background in banking, lending, and financial advising. She holds a Series 6, FINRA, and life insurance licensure and a master's degree from New York University. Through her writing, she strives to use her decade of experience to help consumers make sound financial choices. Connect with J.J. on LinkedIn.