What is bodily injury liability insurance and what does it cover?

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UPDATED: 2019-05-14T18:43:28.354Z
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bodily injury liability insurance policy

Bodily injury liability insurance is one of the main components of car insurance and is a type of vehicle insurance coverage that’s a legal requirement in nearly every state. Because the technical jargon can be quite confusing, we have broken it down to give you a better understanding of what bodily injury liability insurance is.

What is bodily injury liability insurance?

If you’re at fault for a car accident, bodily injury liability insurance will help pay for the injured party’s medical bills. In addition, this insurance coverage may also cover any income loss incurred if the injured party is unable to work as a result of their injuries and/or any legal fees, if the need arises. In essence, this bodily injury liability insurance safeguards you from suffering a huge financial loss.

What is “bodily injury”?

Bodily injury refers to any injury caused to another person requiring them to undergo medical treatment. It can constitute any degree of trauma from a small cut to a serious or life-threatening condition. In essence, bodily injury refers to any harm that has come to someone because of a vehicle-related accident, which is caused by you.

Who does bodily injury liability cover?

In the event of a car accident that you’re legally responsible for, your bodily injury liability insurance can be used to cover injuries sustained by the other driver, a passenger seated in your vehicle or another vehicle, or even a pedestrian or bystander.

However, because you caused the accident, bodily injury liability will not cover your medical bills or lost income. It may be used to cover some or part of your legal fees in case you are sued for damages over the accident.

What is the bodily injury limit?

Bodily injury limit is the maximum amount your car insurance company will pay for medical expenses that are a result of an injury sustained in the car accident. They are a set of defined amounts or numbers and are separated by a slash. For example, they are often represented like this: $50,000/$100,000 or 50/100. The first number represents the bodily injury liability limit per person while the second number represents the bodily injury liability limit per accident.

Bodily injury liability insurance policies come in two different types:

  • Split limit policy – There are two numbers associated with a split limit policy:
    • Limit per person – It’s the maximum amount of medical expense your car insurance company will pay for a single individual involved in the accident. So, using the example above — $50,000/$100,000 — the first amount of $50,000 represents the limit per person. So in the event one party is injured in the accident, the maximum amount your insurance will pay to cover that individual’s medical expenses resulting from the injuries will be limited to $50,000.
    • Limit per accident – It’s the maximum amount of medical expense your car insurance company will cover for all the people injured in the accident. It’s a combined injury expense. In the same example — $50,000/$100,000 — the second amount of $100,000 is indicative of the maximum amount of medical expenses that your auto insurance company is willing to cover for all the injured parties collectively. And this amount is capped by the limit per person; so, if two people are insured, your insurance will pay up to $50,000 per person and up to a combined total of $100,000.
  • Combined single limit policy – Your policy will provide a specific amount of coverage and the decision of how you split that coverage between bodily injury and property damage is your prerogative.

What does bodily injury liability cover?

When you are liable for an accident that injures one or more persons, your bodily injury liability insurance may cover short-term and long-term amounts that arise from the injuries sustained.

  • Medical expenses – While helping you pay for emergency services and hospital care for the injured party, certain bodily injury liability insurance may also cover follow-up visits to the physician and other incidental expenses, such as crutches or a wheelchair required during the recovery phase.
  • Compensation for loss in income – Sometimes, depending on the injury, the injured party may not be able to go back to work for a certain time period, or they may be unable to perform all their regular duties as required under their job description. In this case, they may suffer a loss of income, which your insurance coverage might help you pay.
  • Legal fees – In the event the injured party or their insurance company takes you to court, your bodily injury liability insurance may help you cover any legal fees for hiring your defense counsel and any court-related costs.
  • Pain and suffering – Often, parties who are injured in accidents, claim damages in the form of pain and suffering caused to them and their family. Usually, the courts and legal teams estimate this intangible cost and your bodily injury liability insurance may cover it.
  • Funeral expenses – If the accident results in fatal injuries, bodily insurance coverage may cover funeral expenses as well.

How much bodily injury liability insurance is required

Nearly every state requires a minimum amount of bodily injury liability insurance. However, in exceptional cases, the state may allow the driver to "self insure" if he or she can provide proof that they can meet any expenses that are incurred due to an accident. This may include depositing a substantial amount of savings with the state or posting a bond. For example, New Hampshire does not mandate that its residents have insurance as long as they have sufficient funds to pay for expenses if they are liable for the accident. For those who opt for insurance covers, they must meet the minimum liability coverage limits in New Hampshire.

In the table below, you can see the minimum liability limits required in each state. We've also included the mimimum property damamge liability limits, which is the final number listed in each state.

State Minimum liability limits
Alabama 25/50/25
Alaska 50/100/25
Arizona 15/30/10
Arkansas 25/50/25
California 15/30/5 (1)
Colorado 25/50/15
Connecticut 25/50/20
Delaware 25/50/10
Florida 10/20/10 (1)
Georgia 25/50/25
Hawaii 20/40/10
Idaho 25/50/15
Illinois 25/50/20
Indiana 25/50/25
Iowa 20/40/15
Kansas 25/50/25
Kentucky 25/50/25 (1)
Louisiana 15/30/25
Maine 50/100/25
Maryland 30/60/15
Massachusetts 20/40/5
Michigan 20/40/10
Minnesota 30/60/10
Mississippi 25/50/25
Missouri 25/50/25
Montana 25/50/20
Nebraska 25/50/25
Nevada 25/50/20
New Hampshire 25/50/25
New Jersey 15/30/5 (2)
New Mexico 25/50/10
New York 25/50/10
North Carolina 30/60/25
North Dakota 25/50/25
Ohio 25/50/25
Oklahoma 25/50/25
Oregon 25/50/20
Pennsylvania 15/30/5
Rhode Island 25/50/25
South Carolina 25/50/25
South Dakota 25/50/25
Tennessee 25/50/15 (1)
Texas 30/60/25
Utah 25/65/15 (1)
Vermont 25/50/10
Virginia 25/50/20
Washington 25/50/10
Washington, D.C. 25/50/10
West Virginia 25/50/25
Wisconsin 25/50/10
Wyoming 25/50/20

(1) Drivers are able to meet liability requirements with a policy with a combined single limit. Limits vary by state. (2) These limits are for a standard policy. Drivers also have the option of choosing a basic policy with limits of 10/10/5.

Why it’s important to choose a higher bodily injury liability insurance limit

If you’re legally responsible for an accident and the cost of covering the injured party/parties’ medical bills is more than your bodily injury insurance coverage limits, you might be faced with a considerable out-of-pocket expense in order make up the difference. So, it’s essential that you consider choosing bodily insurance liability limits that are higher than what is mandated in your state to protect your future earnings and assets and mitigate the risk of financial loss, especially where serious car accidents are concerned.

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The content on this site is offered only as a public service to the web community and does not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice. This site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an insurance company or an attorney licensed or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. You should always consult a suitably qualified attorney regarding any specific legal problem or matter. The comments and opinions expressed on this site are of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the insurance company or any individual attorney.

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