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What Is Bodily Injury Liability Insurance Coverage?

Bodily injury liability insurance coverage pays for the medical costs of injured parties (excluding yourself) when you are at fault for causing a car accident. Eligible expenses may include ambulance fees, hospital bills and legal expenses if you are sued. Carrying the minimum requirements for auto liability coverage is required before you can drive legally in most states — 25/50 is the most common minimum requirement.

Keep reading to learn how bodily injury liability coverage works and the coverage requirements for each state.

What Is Bodily Injury Liability Insurance Coverage?

When you are the at-fault driver in an accident, bodily injury liability insurance pays for medical bills and funeral costs of the injured parties (excluding yourself). Your insurer may also pay for legal fees if you're sued or cover lost income if the injured party was unable to work as a result of the car accident.

Coverage does not extend to yourself or family members in your vehicle at the time of the car accident but your insurer may cover unrelated passengers. To gain coverage for yourself and family members, you can buy medical payments coverage or personal injury protection depending on your state.

Carrying the minimum requirements for auto liability coverage is required before you can drive legally in most states.

Bodily injury liability coverage is likely required by law in your state

Bodily injury liability is a component of liability coverage. In most states, demonstrating proof of having liability insurance is part of the process of registering your car. If you're pulled over and unable to show proof of insurance, you may be ticketed and face other penalties, such as fines, suspension of your driving privileges and even jail time.

Examples of states that do not require bodily injury liability coverage include Florida and New Hampshire. Virginia drivers have the option of paying a fee to legally drive without car insurance.

What Does Bodily Injury Liability Cover?

There are four broad categories that bodily injury liability coverage will pay for when you are the at-fault driver in a car accident:

  • Medical expenses: Pays for the injured party's medical bills, including fees related to emergency services, hospital care, follow-up appointments and medical equipment (e.g., wheelchair, crutches).

  • Lost income: Pays for lost income due to the injured party's inability to work (e.g., loss of necessary motor function to perform their duties) or time taken off work as part of the recovery process (e.g., regularly attending physical therapy appointments). The amount an injured party can claim may be subject to additional limits that will vary by state.

  • Legal fees: Pays for legal expenses, such as lawyer fees, if the injured party or parties sue you for injuries, long-term pain and suffering or some other injury or emotional damage caused by the car accident.

  • Funeral costs: Pays for funerals of those who die as a result of a car accident that you caused.

How Does Bodily Injury Liability Coverage Work?

The dollar amount your auto insurance company will cover depends on how much coverage you purchase. Your coverage limit is the maximum payout you can receive on a covered claim. Your state will mandate the minimum coverage limit you must purchase, but drivers are free to purchase more than the minimum requirement to avoid being underinsured.

Bodily injury coverage limits are often defined by two numbers separated by a slash (e.g., 30/60). The first number is the per-person limit and the second number is the per-accident limit.

  • Per-person limit: This is the highest amount your insurer will cover for one person's injuries. If your per-person limit is $30,000 for example, then your insurer may pay for medical expenses up to $30,000 for one injured party.

  • Per-accident limit: This is the highest amount your insurer will cover in an accident if multiple parties are injured. If your per-accident limit is $60,000 for example, then your insurer will only pay for liable expenses up to that amount. If there were five injured parties, then those five would each be covered for $20,000.

The majority of states (33 out of 50) set the bodily injury liability coverage minimum limits at 25/50. However, some states have lower minimum requirements (e.g., 15/30 for Louisiana) or higher requirements (e.g., 50/100 in Maine).

Your coverage limit is the maximum payout you can receive on a covered claim.

Liability Limits in California

California sets the minimum liability coverage limits at 15/30 ($15,000 for the death or injury of a single person; $30,000 for the death or injury of multiple parties in a single car accident). Say you're driving and you rear-end the driver in front of you, causing a hip injury that costs $5,000 to treat. Since your per-injury limit is $15,000, your insurer would cover the full amount.

Now let's say there were multiple passengers in the other car and a pedestrian was injured. Medical expenses for the injuries totaled $30,000. Your insurer would cover the full $30,000 since it was within your coverage limits.

When the costs of an accident exceeds your liability limits

You would be financially liable to cover the remaining expenses if accident-related costs exceed your liability limits. Let's say you had a car accident that caused $35,000 in medical expenses and your liability limit is $30,000, your insurer would cover $30,000 and you'd be on the hook for the remaining $5,000. The injured parties may also sue you to claim the difference. This is why people often buy more coverage than legally required.

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How Much Bodily Injury Liability Coverage Do I Need?

When registering your vehicle, you will need to show proof that you meet your minimum coverage requirements before you can legally drive.

The amount of bodily injury liability coverage you should have will depend on your state and your decision to buy or not buy more coverage than the minimum requirement.

Considering how costly one hospital stay can be, it's wise to buy more than what's legally required.

Bodily injury liability coverage limits by state

Below is a list of the minimum coverage requirements by state. Recall that the numbers indicate the per-injury and per-accident limits and represent thousands of dollars (e.g., 25/50=$25,000 per injury/$50,000 per accident).

State

Min. Coverage

State

Min. Coverage

State

Min. Coverage

Ala.

25/50

La.

15/30

Ohio

25/50

Alaska

50/100

Maine

50/100

Okla.

25/50

Ariz.

25/50

Md.

30/60

Ore.

25/50

Ark.

25/50

Mass.

20/40

Pa.

15/30

Calif.

15/30

Mich.

20/40

R.I.

25/50

Colo.

25/50

Minn.

30/60

S.C.

25/50

Conn.

25/50

Miss.

25/50

S.D.

25/50

Del.

25/50

Mo.

25/50

Tenn.

25/50

Fla.

None*

Mont.

25/50

Texas

30/60

Ga.

25/50

Neb.

25/50

Utah

25/65

Hawaii

20/40

Nev.

25/50

Vt.

25/50

Idaho

25/50

N.H.**

25/50

Va.***

30/60

Ill.

25/50

N.J.

15/30

Wash.

25/50

Ind.

25/50

N.M.

25/50

W.Va.

25/50

Iowa

20/40

N.Y.

25/50

Wis.

25/50

Kan.

25/50

N.C.

30/60

Wyo.

25/50

Ky.

25/50

N.D.

25/50



*Florida requires only personal injury protection and property damage liability coverage.
**New Hampshire does not have an auto insurance mandate.
***Virginia drivers can pay $500 to opt-out of carrying auto insurance.

Bodily Injury Liability vs. Property Damage Liability

When shopping for insurance, there are two types of liability coverage available: bodily injury and property damage. Below is a breakdown of the similarities and differences between each:

Bodily Injury Liability

Property Damage Liability

Coverage applies when you are the at-fault driver in a car accident.

Pays for medical expenses, loss of income, funeral fees of the injured/deceased party of your legal fees if sued.

Pays for damages you caused to the other party's property (e.g., car repair bills in a collision; replacing a fence if you drove into someone's yard).

Example: You are at fault in a car accident and your insurance company covers the $3,000 in medical bills of the injured party.

Example: You are at fault in a car accident and your insurance company covers the $1,000 in repair bills to the other driver's damaged door.

How Much Is Bodily Injury Liability Coverage?

The cost of bodily injury liability coverage will depend on multiple factors, including your state's coverage requirements, discounts, your claims history, age, and vehicle model. The national average cost of an auto insurance policy that meets your minimum coverage requirements is $730 per year, based on SmartFinancial's analysis of average car insurance premiums.

Additional coverages to consider

Beyond bodily injury liability coverage, there are additional coverage options that can further protect you, your family and assets.

  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist: Pays for your medical bills and repairs if the other driver is at-fault in a car accident but does not have auto insurance or has insufficient coverage.

  • Comprehensive: Pays for non-auto-caused damages and more, such as damages from fire, hail, vandalism and theft.

  • Collision: Pays for damages when you collide with another vehicle or object (e.g., fence, tree).

  • Medical payments: Pays for the medical expenses of yourself and family members for injuries sustained during an auto accident. In some no-fault states, this is called personal injury protection and may be required.

Filing a Bodily Injury Liability Claim

If you are the injured party and need to file a bodily injury (BI) claim against the at-fault driver's insurance company, you must do the following.

  1. Document everything: As soon as it is safe to do so, take pictures and videos of the injuries, damages and scene. Contact your insurance company to report the car accident.

  2. Keep records: Since BI claims often involve medical services, keep copies of receipts, invoices and bills from emergency services, hospitals and healthcare providers. If you're taking time off work for recovery, be sure to also keep a copy of correspondence and proof of lost wages.

  3. Answer any questions: Yours or the at-fault driver's insurance company may reach out to you to collect more information about the accident. Be sure to keep relevant documentation ready.

  4. Accept or reject the settlement: The at-fault driver's insurance company may offer a settlement amount to close the case. You can either accept or reject the offer — accepting the offer typically requires you to sign an agreement that you will not seek  future compensation related to this car accident. If you reject the offer and can't come to an agreement, you can consider suing the at-fault driver to collect the amount you believe you are entitled to receive.

Liability coverage does not extend to you and family members, so there are other coverages you can buy like PIP or MedPay.

Bodily Injury Liability Insurance Coverage FAQs

What is the difference between liability and bodily injury?

Bodily injury is one type of coverage under the wider umbrella that is liability car insurance. The other type of liability coverage is for property damage.

Do I need bodily injury liability?

Most states require drivers to meet minimum requirements for bodily injury liability coverage. States without this requirement include Florida, which does not require bodily injury liability coverage specifically, and New Hampshire, which has no mandatory insurance law at all. In Virginia, you can pay a $500 fee to waive liability coverage.

What should your minimum bodily injury liability be?

Buy more than the state minimum if you want to avoid reaching into your own wallet for what could be very costly medical bills. The minimum requirements for how much bodily injury liability coverage you should carry will vary by state. Most states require drivers to carry auto insurance that covers $25,000 per injury and $50,000 per accident.

What is not covered under bodily injury liability coverage?

In a car accident in which you are at fault, bodily injury liability coverage will not pay for any property damages to the other party — this is covered by property damage liability coverage, which is the second component of liability car insurance. Bodily injury liability coverage will not pay benefits for auto-related injuries incurred to yourself or those directly related to you.

Shopping for Car Insurance, Made Easy

Whether you need to meet your state's minimum requirements or want to increase your coverage to better protect yourself, shopping for an auto policy at the best price today is always a good idea. SmartFinancial can help. We compare rates and coverages from hundreds of car insurance companies so you don't have to. Just enter your zip code below and answer a few questions to get matched with a policy and a free quote.

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