What Is Bodily Injury Liability Insurance, And What Does It Typically Cover?

Updated: August 2019

If you cause a car accident that injures another person, bodily injury liability coverage helps pay for their medical expenses and lost income as a result of their injuries. This coverage may also help pay for your legal fees if you're taken to court over an accident. Most states have laws that require you to have bodily injury liability coverage on your car insurance policy.

What Does Bodily Injury Liability Cover?

If you are at fault for an accident that injures someone else, bodily injury liability coverage may help pay for the following three types of costs:

  • Medical expenses: Bodily injury liability insurance helps pay for someone else's emergency services and hospital care if you cause a car accident. It may also help cover their necessary follow-up doctor visits and other associated costs, like having to buy crutches or a wheelchair.
  • Compensation for lost wages and income: Say you hit another car, and the driver is seriously injured and needs to attend months of physical therapy. Or, perhaps the person you injured loses income or wages because he cannot work or perform the normal functions of his job. Bodily injury liability coverage in your car insurance policy may help pay their compensation in this case. Your state's laws may place limits on the amount of compensation the injured person can receive for lost income.
  • Legal fees: After an accident resulting in injuries, you could be taken to court by either the injured party or the injured party's insurance company. This may require you to seek legal counsel, which can be costly. Bodily injury liability coverage may help pay for your legal fees.

Who Does Bodily Injury Liability Cover?

Bodily injury liability insurance helps pay the costs described above for another person or people that you injure with your car. This may include a driver in another car, pedestrians or unrelated passengers in your own car. This coverage does not pay for you or your family's medical expenses or lost income if you cause the car accident. But, it may help pay for your legal expenses if you're taken to court over an accident you caused.

Bodily Injury Liability Coverage Limits

Bodily injury liability coverage is subject to a limit, which is the maximum amount your car insurance policy will pay toward a covered claim. Bodily injury liability coverage generally has two coverage limits: a per-person limit and a per-accident limit.

Per-person limit

The per-person limit applies to each person injured in an accident. For example, say your per-person limit is $50,000. That means if one person is injured in a car accident, the most your bodily injury liability would pay for all of their medical expenses is $50,000.

Per-accident limit

The per-accident limit applies to each accident in which multiple people are injured. Suppose your per-accident limit is $100,000. That means if you cause a car accident that injures three people, the most your bodily injury liability would pay for their combined expenses is $100,000 (and only up to the per-person limit for each person injured).

How Much Bodily Injury Liability Coverage Is Enough?

When choosing bodily injury liability coverage, remember state laws typically dictate a minimum liability coverage limit drivers must purchase. However, you may be able to buy more coverage by increasing your liability limits. Some states may also allow you to choose a combined single limit for bodily injury and property damage liability coverage. That means if you choose a combined limit of $250,000, for example, your policy would pay up to that amount toward property damage or bodily injuries combined.

Lastly, keep in mind that if you injure someone and their medical expenses exceed your bodily injury liability coverage limits, you may have to pay out of pocket to cover the costs. That's why it's important to consider bodily injury liability coverage limits that are higher than state requirements.

Umbrella Insurance And Limits

Personal umbrella insurance allows you to purchase extra liability coverage in addition to another insurance policy's liability coverage. That means if you cause an accident and reach your auto policy's liability limits, the umbrella policy would kick in to help pay the remaining covered costs.

For example, say your auto policy has a bodily injury liability coverage limit of $250,000, but the other driver's medical bills are $300,000. Without umbrella insurance, you may be responsible for paying the extra $50,000 in medical bills out of your own pocket. A personal umbrella policy would help cover those additional costs, up to the policy's limit.

How is Bodily Injury Liability Coverage Different From Property Damage Liability Coverage?

Liability coverage has two components: bodily injury liability and property damage liability. Both coverages are required by law in most states.

  • Property damage liability coverage helps pay for damage you cause to another person's vehicle or property. For example, if you hit someone else's car, mailbox or front porch with your car, property damage liability coverage may help pay to repair their property. And, like bodily injury liability, most states require you to carry a minimum limit of property damage liability coverage.
  • Bodily injury liability coverage helps pay for another person's expenses if you injure them in a car accident. This type of coverage typically helps cover someone else's medical bills.

If you need help understanding your state's bodily injury liability coverage limits, talk to a local agent. They can help you customize a policy and choose limits that fit your personal needs.

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