What is Liability Car Insurance?

Liability car insurance coverage pays for property and bodily damage you cause others in an accident. Most states require drivers to carry at least a minimum amount of coverage.

Choncé Maddox
Written byChoncé Maddox
Choncé Maddox
Choncé Maddox
  • 7+ years writing insurance and personal finance content

  • Certified financial education instructor (CFEI)

Choncé was a licensed life insurance agent before becoming a freelance personal finance writer. She’s passionate about helping people learn to protect themselves with insurance.

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Katie Powers
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Katie PowersAuto and Life Insurance Editor
  • Licensed auto and home insurance agent

  • 3+ years experience in insurance and personal finance editing

Katie uses her knowledge and expertise as a licensed property and casualty agent in Massachusetts to help readers understand the complexities of insurance shopping.

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Mark Friedlander
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Mark Friedlander
Mark FriedlanderDirector, Corporate Communications
  • Corporate communications director for Insurance Information Institute

  • 20+ years in insurance and communications

As Director, Corporate Communications for Triple-I, Mark serves as the non-profit’s national spokesperson, sharing information and education on a wide array of insurance issues.

Konstantin Halachev
Data reviewed byKonstantin Halachev
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Konstantin HalachevVP of Engineering & Data Science
  • 7+ years experience in data analysis

  • Ph.D. in Computational Biology

Konstantin has led data teams across multiple industries, including insurance, travel, and biology. He’s led Insurify’s engineering team for more than three years.

Updated June 12, 2024

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Only two states — New Hampshire and Virginia — allow you to forgo buying car insurance, provided you can prove you have enough money to pay in the event of an auto accident. Virginia also charges uninsured drivers a $500 Uninsured Motor Vehicle fee, so most drivers in the commonwealth opt to buy auto insurance. If you live anywhere else, state law will require you to buy liability insurance coverage that meets or exceeds the state's minimum requirements. 

Also known as standard insurance, liability insurance pays for costs related to the bodily injury and property damage of the other driver after an accident you caused. 

Liability insurance is an excellent option for affordable coverage, but it’s important to know how far that coverage will extend while also considering what’s best for your personal situation. Many drivers feel the need to purchase additional comprehensive or collision coverage for a greater level of financial protection. 

Quick Facts
  • Most states require drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability car insurance.

  • State minimum coverage might not be enough to cover all your costs in case you cause an accident.

  • If you lease or finance your car, you'll most likely need to carry full-coverage car insurance.

How does liability car insurance work?

Liability car insurance covers damage to the other person’s vehicle along with their medical costs if you cause an accident. You can’t use liability coverage to fix your own vehicle or pay your medical bills, but it reduces the burden of having to pay out of pocket for someone else’s accident-related expenses. 

Without liability car insurance, you would be entirely responsible for paying the other driver's costs should they sue you and win damages. Also, you’d face penalties such as fines or a suspended license if you live in a state that requires liability insurance. These states provide minimum coverage limits, but you can purchase additional coverage. 

When you file a claim, your insurance company will pay up to your coverage limit.

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What does liability car insurance cover?

Liability insurance primarily covers costs for bodily injury and property damage, including the following expenses for the other driver in an accident you caused: 

  • Emergency room visit after the accident

  • CT scan and other medical tests

  • Extended hospital stay

  • Physical therapy

  • Vehicle and auto-body repairs

  • Vehicle replacement (if the car is totaled)

  • Damage to other property, such as a fence or phone pole 

Most states use an at-fault judgment, which means if there’s an accident, both drivers’ insurance companies will determine who was responsible. Then, the at-fault driver needs to file a claim for insurance to cover the other person’s expenses from the damage.

In no-fault states, expenses are covered by each driver’s policy through personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.

No-Fault Insurance

No-Fault Insurance

What doesn’t liability car insurance cover?

Whether you’re at fault or not, liability insurance doesn’t cover damage to your vehicle or your medical expenses due to an accident. Comprehensive and collision insurance extend coverage to your own vehicle and medical expenses.

Ideally, when both drivers have liability coverage, their insurance will cover the other driver’s vehicle and medical expenses depending on who’s at fault. So if you’re not at fault and someone rear-ends you, for example, their insurance would cover you. 

However, if the damage exceeds the coverage limit or you have additional expenses, like needing a rental car to get around while your vehicle is being fixed, liability coverage may not provide adequate coverage. 

Likewise, if you hit an object such as a fence or mailbox, and damage your car, liability insurance won’t apply since you’d be at fault. Plus, there’s no other driver with insurance to cover your expenses.  

You'll need to buy collision insurance to cover these types of damage.

Good to know

Liability insurance also won’t help you if you’re hit by another driver who doesn’t have insurance or who has too little insurance. In those situations, uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage would pay. But those coverages are typically optional, so you’ll have to choose them and pay an additional premium for them.

Types of liability auto insurance

Different types of liability insurance affect what your insurer will cover. Minimum requirements for liability insurance vary by state, so the following options may not be required in your state. 

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/x/4c9753bdbe/medical-payments.svg

    Bodily injury

    If the other driver faces injuries from an accident that you cause, your liability insurance will cover things like their emergency room visit, CT scan, or an extended hospital stay. It also covers lost wages and legal fees if the other driver decides to sue you for their injuries and the impact it left on them. 

    If your policy includes your family members, bodily injury liability coverage also applies to any damage they may cause to someone else while driving your vehicle.

    This coverage operates with per-person and per-accident limits. This means, if multiple people in the other car (or even a pedestrian involved in the accident) need medical care, your bodily injury liability insurance can cover costs for each person up to your coverage limit. The per-accident limit applies to how much your insurer will cover overall in an accident.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/x/169fdfde11/liability-coverage.svg

    Property damage

    This type of liability coverage pays for damages to the other driver's vehicle from an accident you caused. If you hit a fence or a city utility pole, your property damage coverage can also pay the property owner for those damages.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/x/c1984b0bb9/safety.svg

    Personal injury protection (PIP)

    Personal injury protection, or PIP, coverage covers medical expenses regardless of fault. No-fault states require PIP coverage, so both drivers must contact and file a claim with their insurance companies regardless of who caused the accident. 

    In the 1970s, some states proposed legislation to introduce no-fault insurance to reduce claim delays and the number of cases that went to court. Types of coverage and limits vary, but in most states, PIP covers medical fees, lost wages, and ongoing care for accident-related injuries. Some PIP policies also cover the cost of hiring a person to perform the essential services that someone injured in an accident cannot perform. 

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/100x100/e0a53737be/health.svg

    Medical payments (MedPay)

    Medical insurance coverage, or Med Pay, is an auto insurance add-on that covers medical expenses for you and your passengers, even if you’re at fault. Specifically, this insurance covers costs for hospital visits and stays, doctor’s visits, health insurance deductibles, surgeries, and funeral expenses.

    Some states that don’t offer Med Pay coverage require PIP instead, so depending on where you live, you’ll have one or the other. Compared to PIP coverage, Med Pay tends to be optional when offered and fails to cover lost wages and more. People might purchase this coverage to extend protection to their vehicle and medical expenses beyond basic liability coverage.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/x/5285c4cd74/uninsured-or-underinsured-motorist-coverage.svg

    Uninsured/underinsured motorist

    Uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance protects drivers involved in a hit-and-run or an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. Unfortunately, 12.6% of drivers still decide not to purchase auto insurance even though it’s required, according to the Insurance Research Council. Or, they may not have enough coverage to pay for the damage they caused. Many states combine uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance into one policy. Some require insurers to include the coverage in every policy they sell, but allow drivers to decline the coverage, typically in writing.

    Uninsured motorist insurance covers medical bills for both you and your passengers and damages to your vehicle. Some states may not cover damage due to a hit-and-run, so you’ll need to check with your insurer and consider purchasing collision coverage.

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*Quotes generated for Insurify users within the last 10 days. Last updated on June 12, 2024

Rates shown are real-time Insurify user quotes from 100+ insurance companies and Quadrant Information Services data. Insurify’s algorithm excludes anomalous quotes and anonymizes personal details, then displays refined quotes by price, date, and insurer popularity up to 10 days ago from June 12, 2024. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer’s unique driver profile.

*Quotes generated for Insurify users within the last 10 days. Last updated on June 12, 2024

Rates shown are real-time Insurify user quotes from 100+ insurance companies and Quadrant Information Services data. Insurify’s algorithm excludes anomalous quotes and anonymizes personal details, then displays refined quotes by price, date, and insurer popularity up to 10 days ago from June 12, 2024. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer’s unique driver profile.

State requirements for liability insurance

Depending on where you live, your minimum liability limits will vary because states set their own requirements for registered drivers. Find the minimum insurance requirements, as listed by the Insurance Information Institute, for your state in the table below. The split limit for Alabama, for example, is 20/50/25. The first number represents bodily injury per person, the second represents bodily injury per accident, and the final number represents property damage per accident. 

StateMinimum Liability Limits
Alabama 20/50/25
Alaska50/100/25
Arizona25/50/15
Arkansas25/50/25
California15/30/5
Colorado25/50/15
Connecticut25/50/25
Delaware25/50/10
Florida10/10
Georgia25/50/25
Hawaii20/40/10
Idaho25/50/15
Illinois25/50/20
Indiana25/50/50
Iowa20/40/15
Kansas25/50/25
Kentucky25/50/25
Louisiana15/30/25
Maine50/100/25
Maryland30/60/15
Massachusetts20/40/5
Michigan20/40/10
Minnesota 30/60/10
Mississippi25/50/25
Missouri25/50/10
Montana25/50/20
Nebraska25/50/25
Nevada25/50/20
New Hampshire25/50/25
New Jersey25/50/25
New Mexico25/50/10
New York25/50/10
North Carolina30/60/25
North Dakota25/50/25
Ohio25/50/25
Oklahoma25/50/25
Oregon25/50/20
Pennsylvania15/30/5
Rhode Island25/50/25
South Carolina25/50/25
South Dakota25/50/25
Tennessee25/50/15
Texas30/60/25
Utah25/65/15
Vermont25/50/10
Virginia30/60/20
Washington25/50/10
Washington, D.C. 25/50/10
West Virginia25/50/25
Wisconsin25/50/10
Wyoming25/50/20
Disclaimer: Table data sourced from real-time quotes from Insurify's 50-plus partner insurance providers. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer's unique driver profile.

Average cost of liability insurance by state

Insurance costs can vary significantly based on location, and the amounts and types of insurance a state requires drivers to carry. Here's a look at the average cost of liability insurance in each state, based on Insurify data.

The below rates are estimated rates current as of: Saturday, June 1 at 12:00 PM PDT
Data reviewed by Konstantin Halachev
Headshot of Konstantin Halachev, VP of Engineering at Insurify
Konstantin HalachevVP of Engineering & Data Science
  • 7+ years experience in data analysis

  • Ph.D. in Computational Biology

Konstantin has led data teams across multiple industries, including insurance, travel, and biology. He’s led Insurify’s engineering team for more than three years.

StateAverage Monthly Quote: Liability Coverage
North Carolina56
New Hampshire56
Alabama61
Wisconsin61
Iowa61
South Dakota64
Hawaii65
Vermont67
Wyoming68
Idaho69
New Mexico69
Indiana69
Ohio73
West Virginia73
Mississippi76
Tennessee78
Illinois79
Kansas80
Washington83
Colorado86
North Dakota88
Maine89
Oklahoma90
Nebraska91
Arizona93
Virginia93
Pennsylvania93
Montana94
Missouri98
Oregon100
Massachusetts101
Utah102
Minnesota103
United States105
Arkansas109
New Jersey114
Texas119
Washington D.C.121
Delaware131
California135
New York143
Georgia146
Rhode Island149
Louisiana154
South Carolina164
Kentucky179
Maryland179
Michigan180
Nevada199
Connecticut203
Florida213
Disclaimer: Table data sourced from real-time quotes from Insurify's 50-plus partner insurance providers. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer's unique driver profile.

Additional auto insurance coverage

Liability coverage provides the minimum car insurance required, but other options with more coverage exist. Though liability coverage presents the cheapest option and protects you from paying out of pocket for the other driver’s medical and vehicle expenses, it offers little to no protection for your own medical costs and vehicle repairs. 

Additional auto insurance coverage or a more comprehensive policy helps you avoid costly medical bills and medical collections, along with some money to repair or replace your car sooner. Find information about three other types of car insurance coverage options to consider below: 

  • Collision: Collision insurance covers repairs to your car as a result of an accident with another vehicle or if your car hits an object such as a light pole or mailbox. Additionally, it covers damage to your car from potholes and rollover accidents. Insurers sell collision coverage with a separate deductible and will reimburse you regardless of fault. 

  • Comprehensive: Comprehensive coverage reimburses you for damage to your car caused by something other than a collision or loss due to theft. Insurers require drivers who finance their cars to have comprehensive coverage. It covers damages due to contact with an animal (such as accidentally hitting a deer on the road), fallen objects, broken windshields, weather hazards, and riots or vandalism.

  • Full coverage: Full coverage usually means you have comprehensive and collision insurance, along with anything else your state requires. Since most states require liability, full coverage indicates you have all three. When you finance a car, your lender usually requires you to have full-coverage car insurance.

Liability car insurance FAQs

Carrying liability coverage can keep you compliant with state laws that require a certain amount of coverage. And liability can help pay for the other driver's property damage and injury costs you're financially responsible for in an accident you caused. But insurance professionals often recommend drivers buy liability limits above state minimums for greater financial protection. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about liability coverage.

  • What is liability car insurance?

    Liability car insurance covers damage to another person’s vehicle and their medical costs from an accident you caused. If you get into an accident and are responsible, you’ll exchange insurance information with the other driver. Then, contact your insurance company to file a claim so your insurer can send a payment to the other driver. Most states require liability insurance and each state sets its own minimum coverage amount requirements.

  • What does it mean to live in a no-fault state for car insurance?

    No-fault states require drivers to file a claim with their insurance company regardless of fault. These states also require drivers to purchase PIP coverage in addition to their auto insurance policy. PIP coverage pays for medical expenses, lost wages, and related costs due to the aftermath of an accident. 

    At-fault states make the driver responsible for causing the accident use their insurance to cover the other driver’s vehicle damages and any medical expenses.

  • Does liability auto insurance cover damages to your vehicle?

    No, liability insurance only covers damages to the other person’s vehicle. Comprehensive and collision insurance do cover damages to your car. This additional coverage makes it worth purchasing on top of your state’s minimum required liability insurance, depending on your financial situation and insurance needs.

  • How do split limits vary from combined limits?

    Split-limit car insurance policies present liability coverage by the following categories: 

    • Bodily injury per person

    • Bodily injury per accident

    • Property damage per accident

    For example, in Ohio, the liability coverage limit is 25/50/25. This means insurance will cover up to the following: 

    • $25,000 for the other driver’s injuries 

    • $50,000 in total for the other driver’s injuries as well as any of their passengers

    • $25,000 for damage to their vehicle

    A combined limit merges everything so you have one limit for bodily injury and property damage. You can divide a combined limit up in any way to cover bodily injury or property damage after an accident instead of having separate limits. 

Choncé Maddox
Choncé Maddox

Choncé Maddox is a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) and personal finance freelance writer. She graduated from Northern Illinois University with a degree in Journalism and has been covering personal finance topics surrounding saving, debt payoff, credit, and home insurance for seven years. Chonce briefly held a life insurance license in Illinois where she developed a passion for helping people learn how to protect themselves and their property through insurance coverage. Her work has been featured on LendingTree, Business Insider, RateGenius and more.

Katie Powers
Edited byKatie PowersAuto and Life Insurance Editor
Photo of an Insurify author
Katie PowersAuto and Life Insurance Editor
  • Licensed auto and home insurance agent

  • 3+ years experience in insurance and personal finance editing

Katie uses her knowledge and expertise as a licensed property and casualty agent in Massachusetts to help readers understand the complexities of insurance shopping.

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Mark Friedlander
Reviewed byMark FriedlanderDirector, Corporate Communications
Mark Friedlander
Mark FriedlanderDirector, Corporate Communications
  • Corporate communications director for Insurance Information Institute

  • 20+ years in insurance and communications

As Director, Corporate Communications for Triple-I, Mark serves as the non-profit’s national spokesperson, sharing information and education on a wide array of insurance issues.

Konstantin Halachev
Data reviewed byKonstantin HalachevVP of Engineering & Data Science
Headshot of Konstantin Halachev, VP of Engineering at Insurify
Konstantin HalachevVP of Engineering & Data Science
  • 7+ years experience in data analysis

  • Ph.D. in Computational Biology

Konstantin has led data teams across multiple industries, including insurance, travel, and biology. He’s led Insurify’s engineering team for more than three years.

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