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Auto insurance comes with a range of coverage options, each serving a specific purpose to protect you against potential risks. Bodily injury liability coverage is part of minimum-coverage insurance and provides financial protection if you’re in an accident. However, it doesn’t pay for your own medical costs.
Bodily injury coverage pays for medical bills, funeral costs (in severe cases), and other accident-related expenses for the other parties involved in an accident you cause. Auto insurance minimums in most states require drivers to carry bodily injury coverage.
Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself from potentially significant out-of-pocket costs.
Nearly every state requires drivers to carry at least a minimum amount of liability insurance.
Bodily injury liability and property damage liability are two main components of a minimum-coverage policy.
Your policy's limits determine the amount your bodily injury liability coverage will pay in a covered accident.
What is bodily injury liability insurance?
Bodily injury liability insurance includes two types of limits:
Per-person limits: The maximum amount your insurance company will pay for each person injured in an accident
Per-accident limits: The total amount your insurance company will pay for all injured parties in a single accident
A policy with limits of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident is usually written as 50/100. In this case, the first number refers to the limit per person and the second indicates the per-accident cap.
Suppose you cause an accident and injure another driver and their passenger. If your policy has 50/100 limits, your coverage can pay up to $50,000 per person, but the overall payout for the entire accident can’t be more than $100,000. If the injuries are severe and expenses are more than the policy limit, you may be responsible for paying the remaining costs.
The difference between bodily injury and property damage liability coverage
While bodily injury liability protects people, property damage liability protects property, such as a fence, lamppost, or the other driver’s car. However, like bodily injury coverage, property damage liability doesn’t cover your own property. It only covers someone else’s property.
Insurers also have a maximum amount they’ll contribute toward property damage. It’s written as the third number in a 50/100/25 policy, with the first two numbers referring to bodily injury coverage (per-person and per-accident limits). In a 50/100/25 policy, the property damage liability coverage cap is $25,000.
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What bodily injury liability insurance covers
The specific coverage of a bodily injury liability policy can vary by your insurer and state regulations. Generally, it foots the bill for a few common costs if you’re at fault for an accident. Some common elements it typically covers include:
Medical expenses: This covers medical bills and related expenses of the injured party. It can include hospitalization, surgeries, medications, rehabilitation, and other necessary medical treatments.
Lawyer bills and legal fees: This pays for attorney fees, court costs, and other legal expenses you might have if the injured party files a lawsuit against you.
Loss of income: This covers lost wages for the injured party during recovery or rehabilitation.
Pain and suffering: This gives compensation to the injured party for physical pain and emotional distress as a result of the accident and related injuries.
Funeral expenses: This pays funeral and burial expenses in the unfortunate event of a fatal accident.
What bodily injury coverage excludes
Bodily injury liability coverage is a crucial protection if you injure someone in an accident. But it has limitations. Most importantly, bodily injury liability doesn’t cover your own medical expenses. You’ll need to purchase personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments coverage to help pay your medical bills.
It also won’t cover any costs beyond your policy’s coverage limits. Insurance policies typically have set coverage limits. If accident expenses exceed the limit, you may have to pay for the remaining costs out of your own funds.
To avoid a financial hit, you may consider increasing your policy limits or buying an umbrella policy. An umbrella policy is a separate type of insurance you can purchase on top of your existing coverage. It can cover a wider range of expenses, such as medical payments and other costs beyond your current coverage limits. Umbrella insurance can also provide additional liability coverage for your home insurance policy.
Remember that property damage insurance is separate from bodily injury coverage. Bodily injury liability won’t cover vehicles, fences, buildings, or other property damage. A property damage liability policy will cover the damage to another person’s property, while comprehensive and collision can cover your own car.
How much bodily injury coverage do you need?
Bodily injury coverage doesn’t have a universal standard. State laws set minimum coverage limits for drivers, and insurers offer higher limits for more protection. So how much protection you need depends on where you live and your personal finances.
First, consider your state’s minimum requirements for per-person and per-accident limits. Coverage limits can vary significantly from state to state, and knowing what your state requires is important. To drive legally, your policy must meet the minimum requirements in your state.
The average auto insurance claim in the U.S. was $22,394 in 2019, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. A more recent study from the Insurance Research Council found that the average claim payment increased more than 2.25% for both bodily injury and physical damage claims. But these are just averages — the reality could be much higher, and you could be legally responsible for paying any costs your insurance doesn’t cover.
How much bodily injury liability car insurance costs
The average cost of bodily injury liability coverage in the United States is approximately $67 per month for a 50/100 coverage level. You may pay more or less depending on your location, driving history, type of vehicle, and other factors.
To give you a clearer idea of the price, Insurify data shows that the average monthly cost of a liability-only policy is $106. A liability-only policy includes bodily injury and property damage liability. With a liability-only policy, your insurance company can pick up the bill for another person’s medical bills and property repairs.
Here’s a look at each state’s monthly average liability insurance costs to give you an idea of liability-only premiums where you live.
Disclaimer: Table data sourced from real-time quotes from Insurify's 50-plus partner insurance providers and quote estimates from Quadrant Information Services. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer's unique driver profile.
Remember, bodily injury liability insurance is just one aspect of your auto insurance policy. Check with your insurance agent to understand coverage options and determine the best coverage types and limits for your situation.
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Bodily injury liability coverage FAQs
Knowing the nuances of bodily injury liability coverage can ensure you have the protection you need in the event of an accident. Get answers to commonly asked questions about bodily injury liability coverage to understand how it works with your auto insurance policy.
Does bodily injury liability coverage have a deductible?
No, bodily injury liability doesn’t have a deductible. However, it doesn’t cover your medical expenses. Instead, it pays for medical fees and other costs for others who were injured in an accident you caused. Keep in mind that coverage limits apply, so you may want to increase coverage for more financial protection in case of a severe accident.
Is personal injury protection the same as bodily injury liability coverage?
No, personal injury protection (PIP) and bodily injury coverage aren’t the same. PIP covers medical expenses and other costs for you and your passengers after a car accident. Bodily injury liability insurance covers injuries to others, including medical bills, lost wages, and other fees.
What is uninsured motorist coverage?
Uninsured motorist coverage offers protection if you’re in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have insurance, or the victim of a hit-and-run accident. You can also consider underinsured motorist coverage to help cover costs if the other driver doesn’t have enough coverage to pay for the damages they cause. Both policy types can pay for medical bills, lost wages, and other damages after an accident.
What’s the difference between medical payments coverage and bodily injury liability?
Medical payments coverage helps pay for medical expenses for you and your passengers if you’re in an accident. It can help cover hospital bills, doctor’s visits, and even funeral expenses. Bodily injury liability helps protect you financially if you’re in an accident and cause injury or death to another person. It can also pay legal fees if the other driver decides to sue you.
Amy is a personal finance and technology writer. With a background in the legal field and a bachelor's degree from Ferris State University, she has a talent for transforming complex topics into content that’s easy to understand. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.