What Is Bodily Injury Liability?

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man hurt in a car accident

Bodily injury liability coverage is a significant part of your auto insurance policy.

Limits, liability, coverage… the auto insurance industry sure is attached to their jargon. Because of that, it isn’t easy to understand how auto insurance coverage works. Things can confuse you with specific insurance policy elements, like bodily injury liability limits.

To help you better understand this coverage, we’ll explain the different ways bodily injury or ‘BI’ works.

What is Bodily Injury Liability?

When your policy refers to bodily injury, it’s talking about any time a driver or passenger in your vehicle or another vehicle is injured and requires medical treatment.

This includes anything from a bruise to a broken arm or worse.

For example, let’s say you’re in a car accident, hit another vehicle, and the person in that car has a broken arm as a result. Your Bodily injury liability would cover their medical costs.

What Does it Cover?

In at-fault states, drivers found at-fault during a car accident could be on the hook for bodily injury expenses.

Here are some of the things bodily injury liability insurance might help you pay for:

  • Medical expenses for injured passengers: The insurance policy can help you pay medical costs for the injuries you cause other passengers not in your vehicle. The allowed expenses can range from related doctor visits to medication required for recovery.
  • Lost income: In some cases, your insurance company will cover the expense of lost wages for the injured party. But this is only an option if they are too hurt to get to work.
  • Legal fees: When you cause an accident, it’s not uncommon for the injured party to sue you. Typically, your insurance company will pay for the legal fees involved in defending yourself against the claims.
  • Pain and suffering: The cost of an injury doesn’t stop with doctor’s bills. In many cases, the injuries can lead to long-term pain and suffering. With that in mind, bodily injury liability insurance can provide financial compensation to the injured parties.
  • Funeral costs: In the worst-case scenario, the policy could cover the funeral expenses if passengers in the other vehicle died.

But remember that your bodily injury liability insurance will only offer coverage up to your policy limits.

How Much Bodily Injury Liability Coverage do I Need?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer for how much bodily injury liability coverage you need. Determining the right amount of coverage will vary dramatically based on your state’s requirements and financial situation.

It’s hard to know how much coverage is enough — especially for something as complex as bodily injury coverage. That’s why most states have minimum limits.

The term minimum limit means that the state establishes a certain amount of coverage that drivers must carry, and no one is allowed to have less than that.

Some states, like Florida, don’t require you to carry bodily injury coverage, but New York requires you to have several BI coverages. If you’re sure you want the minimum, check out our Auto Insurance by State guides. Select your state and read about your minimum coverage laws.

If your state requires minimum liability coverage, it’s illegal to drive without it. With that, carrying the minimum liability coverage limits is an essential starting point.

But when considering the amount of bodily injury liability coverage to purchase, it’s critical to consider how much risk you’re willing to take while on the road.

Remember that medical bills can quickly add up to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Without enough coverage, you’ll be responsible for these costs out of pocket.

Ultimately, the right amount of bodily injury liability is up to you.

Is Bodily Injury Liability Insurance Worth it?

Most states require drivers to carry a minimum amount of bodily injury liability insurance. With that, it’s a no-brainer that bodily injury liability insurance is worth it. If you get caught driving without insurance, you could face serious consequences. Whether your state slaps you with a fine or suspends your license, neither option is something you want to endure.

At this most basic level, even if it is required, having bodily injury liability insurance is worth it.

The reality is that accidents happen every single day. If you are at fault in an auto accident, paying for personal injury expenses or your legal defense could drain your savings quickly. If you don’t have unlimited resources, this kind of liability insurance is an excellent idea to protect your long-term financial outlook.

How do Limits Work?

doctor treating patient after being in a car accident

The coverage limits tied to your bodily injury liability insurance are critical. Without a clear understanding of those numbers, you are essentially flying blind into this financial contract.

Bodily injury limits are often represented as numbers (or dollar amounts) separated by a slash. They often look something like this: $100,000/$300,000 or this: 100/300.

Bodily Injury Limits refer to the maximum amount your insurance company will pay when you injure someone in a car accident. We’ll explain these numbers in more detail next.

So now that you know what bodily injury limits are, let us explain how they work. Your bodily injury limits consist of two numbers separated by a slash.

The first number is the maximum amount your auto insurance company will pay to cover costs related to medical bills arising from an injury from a car accident for the people in the other vehicle or pedestrians. This is a maximum based on one person’s injuries.

The second number in your bodily injury limits shows the maximum amount your insurance company will pay for all medical bills (regardless of how many people are injured) stemming from an accident involving the insured vehicle and one other car.

So, imagine your limits are $100,000/$300,000, and there is a car accident where three people are injured. Each person would get up to $100,000 of coverage for their injuries, up to a maximum of $300,000 overall.

If you see a third number tacked onto the end of a policy, that often indicates the amount of coverage for property damage liability. Property damage liability covers property the other person involved in the accident incurs. So, if you see a 25/50/25 policy, that would mean $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person, $50,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per accident, and $25,000 in property damage liability coverage per accident.

Make sense? This stuff is complicated, so do your research before buying a policy to ensure you have coverage that suits your needs and what you feel comfortable with.

How Much Does Bodily Injury Liability Cost?

The cost of bodily injury liability insurance varies widely based on location and other unique factors.

Insurance companies determine premiums based on the risk factors associated with the policyholder. For example, drivers without speeding tickets on their driving record often pay less for insurance than those who do.

Another significant factor is your location. Drivers in some states tend to pay more for car insurance than others. But in any case, opting for minimum bodily injury liability insurance is less expensive than a full coverage insurance policy.

Other Insurance Policies to Consider for Robust Coverage

Bodily injury liability insurance is one type of insurance that you don’t want to forego. But that’s not the only type of insurance you should have.

Cover Your Medical Expenses

One important note is that liability coverage doesn’t pay for your own medical expenses or those of your passengers. That’s because liability coverage focuses on your liability to other people. You’ll be on the hook for your own medical costs without the help of an insurance company if you only carry bodily injury liability insurance.

Cover Someone Else’s Vehicle Damages

Additionally, bodily injury liability insurance doesn’t cover the costs to repair your vehicle or anyone else’s car. Property damage liability coverage is a required part of your policy because it pays for damages to another driver’s vehicle. And you’d need to carry collision insurance to get help from the insurance company to pay for damage to your car after an accident.

Cover Your Own Vehicle Damages

Most states require you to carry a minimum amount of property damage liability to cover the cost of repairing or replacing the other driver’s vehicle in an at-fault accident. But what about your car? If you can’t afford to repair or replace your vehicle without an insurance company kicking in, then seriously consider collision coverage.

Adding extra coverage involves higher costs. But the proper collection of insurance types and coverage limits will provide the appropriate protection for your unique financial situation.

How to Find the Cheapest Auto Insurance Policy

The best way to find the lowest rates for your situation is to compare quotes from multiple insurance companies. Since each insurance company evaluates risks differently, you’ll likely find a wide range of costs.

Luckily, Compare makes it easy to shop around. Start by entering your zip code to compare dozens of quotes in minutes.


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