Bodily injury liability insurance is a type of coverage that pays for other people’s expenses resulting from injuries that you cause in an accident, including medical bills and lost wages. Bodily injury liability coverage is required by most states and is only one type of liability insurance. The other is property damage liability coverage, which pays for damage to other people’s property if you are found to be at fault.
Key Points About Bodily Injury Liability Insurance
- It only covers other people’s expenses in accidents that you cause.
- Bodily injury liability insurance can also cover your legal fees if you are sued after causing an accident.
- Bodily injury liability policies have limits on how much will be paid per person injured and per accident.
- Most states require bodily injury liability coverage.
- The cost of bodily injury insurance varies based on the driver and how much coverage they purchase.
What Does Bodily Injury Liability Cover?
Bodily injury insurance will cover a portion of the short- and long-term costs related to injuries suffered by other drivers, passengers, pedestrians and bystanders who may have been involved in an accident caused by the policyholder. Here are some examples of what bodily injury insurance typically covers:
Bodily injury insurance covers hospital fees and emergency care associated with the accident. For some claims, it may also cover follow-up visits and equipment costs (such as crutches).
In case of an accident, the other party may file a lawsuit against you. Bodily injury insurance often covers legal defense fees and can help defray significant court costs.
Loss of income
Let’s say the other person suffers an injury that interferes with their ability to work – maybe they work in a physically demanding environment, or need several months of rehab. In this case, bodily injury insurance may compensate for this time period.
Pain and suffering
This can be a tricky cost to quantify, but the other party may claim repayment for lingering pain or emotional distress as a result of the injuries.
In the event of fatalities, bodily injury coverage will also help pay for the funeral costs.
How Bodily Injury Liability Works
Liability insurance packages come in two varieties: combined single limit policies and split limit policies. In a combined single limit policy, your policy will offer a certain amount of coverage, and you can decide how to divide that coverage between bodily injury and property damage.
If you purchase a split limit policy, you will notice that there are two numbers involved. The first number is the limit per person – the maximum amount that your insurance provider will pay for injury expenses for any single person involved in the accident. The second number is limit per accident, or the maximum amount the provider will cover for all people involved in the accident.
Bodily Injury Liability Coverage Notation: 25,000/50,000 or 25/50
Using the above bodily injury liability policy limits (25,000/50,000), let’s look at a few scenarios.
Scenario 1: One person injured in an accident you cause.
Total cost: $30,000
Although your policy covers up to $50,000 per accident, it only covers up to $25,000 per person. You are responsible for the remaining $5,000.
Scenario 2: Two people injured in an accident you cause.
Total costs: $65,000 for person 1 and $20,000 for person 2.
In this case, since your per person limit is $25,000, you are responsible for the remaining $40,000 cost of Person 1’s medical bills. However, since your per accident limit is $50,000, your policy would cover the entirety of Person 2’s bills.
Scenario 3: Four people.
Total costs: $20,000, $20,000, $15,000, $10,000.
In this case, everyone is within the per person limit. However, the $65,000 total is above your per accident limit. In this case, the insurance company would cover payments based on the order the claims are processed in. After your $50,000 is used up, you’ll be responsible for the rest.
When looking at a split limit policy, you may also see a third number. This last number is the limit for property damage liability coverage. In that case, the limits may be expressed as 25,000/50,000/20,000.
Bodily Injury Liability Requirements
States typically require motorists to carry a minimum amount of bodily injury and property damage liability insurance. The map below shows the minimum amount of bodily injury coverage your state requires per person injured in the event of an accident.
Bodily Injury Liability Requirements by State
|State||Min. Liability Coverage Per Person||Min. Liability Coverage Per Accident|
|District of Columbia||$25,000||$50,000|
Minimum coverage requirements last updated November 2020
There is an exception to the rule of state-mandated insurance. Several states allow drivers to “self-insure” by demonstrating they could pay for any expenses that would result from an accident. This may involve posting a bond or depositing large amounts of savings with the state. New Hampshire is an example of a state that technically does not require drivers to carry insurance so long as they have significant funds at their disposal in the event of an accident. If a New Hampshire driver opts for insurance however—as nearly all do—they must meet the state’s minimum requirements.
Bodily Injury Liability Cost
When deciding how much bodily injury liability insurance to buy, you may want to know how much additional coverage above the minimum required will cost.
The table below provides an example of the average additional cost drivers in Northern Virginia may incur annually if they purchase more than the $25,000/$50,000 coverage required in that state. Because insurance costs vary by driver, we provide the added cost for a driver with a clean driving record and others with a recent accident or traffic violation.
Added Cost of Extra Bodily Injury Liability Coverage vs. State Minimum
|Driver with clean driving history||$16 extra||$72 extra||$154 extra|
|Driver with recent speeding ticket||$20 extra||$88 extra||$176 extra|
|Driver with recent accident||$24 extra||$100 extra||$240 extra|
Note: Average calculated from quotes by multiple insurance providers for a 37-year old female with excellent credit in zip code 22209 driving a 2008 Honda Accord. Monthly cost also includes $50,000 in property damage liability insurance and collision and comprehensive insurance with $500 deductibles.
How Much Bodily Injury Liability Coverage Should I Buy?
While the average bodily injury claim in 2018 was about $15,785, according to the Insurance Information Institute, your costs could spiral if you are found responsible for a car wreck that causes injuries (or even death) for multiple people. If these expenses exceed the limits on your insurance policy, the other parties may come after you for the balance, putting your assets at risk.
Our advice is to strongly consider buying the most coverage you can afford. This will not only allow you to protect your assets, it will also give you peace of mind that your insurance will cover expenses related to any injuries you cause. In any event, make sure you are covered at least by the minimum limit your state requires.
Ask the Experts
To gain more insight about bodily injury liability Insurance, WalletHub posed the following questions to a panel of experts. Click on the experts below to view their bios and answers.
1. Why is bodily injury liability insurance required in so many states?
2. What types of drivers should only get the minimum amount of bodily injury liability insurance?
3. What types of drivers should get more than the minimum amount of bodily injury liability insurance?