Car insurance: What is bodily injury liability?

Though many people depend on their cars to get where they need to go, driving isn’t without its risks. Since we drive so much and ride in cars so much, we’re so used to it that sometimes we forget the danger. But accidents and wrecks happen, and that’s why car insurance is a thing. One essential coverage that you need as part of your insurance plan is bodily injury liability coverage. But what’s that, you may ask? We’ll explain.

What is bodily injury liability?

Bodily injury liability coverage can help you if you’re at fault in an accident because it helps cover the expenses that you have to pay to the other driver if you injure them. It can also help you cover your legal fees if they decide to sue you.

Bodily injury liability can help cover expenses like:

  • The other driver’s medical bills (i.e. hospital care, doctor’s visits)
  • The other driver’s lost wages
  • The other driver’s pain and suffering

So, if you cause a car wreck and the other driver is seriously injured, your bodily injury liability insurance can help cover their hospital bills and other medical expenses. If they’re unable to work, it may also help cover their lost wages. And if there’s pain and suffering, it can help with that, too.

(Note that your bodily injury liability coverage does not pay for your medical bills following a car accident.)

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Am I required to have bodily injury liability insurance?

Most states require drivers to have bodily injury liability insurance, yes. The states set their minimum limits of liability insurance, meaning that you need to carry at least that much insurance. So, it’s important for you to find out what the minimum limits of insurance are for your state – and if the state requires you to carry any other types of insurance.

Keep in mind, though, that these minimums are really a minimum. You might find that you want more bodily injury liability than your state technically requires. Think about how expensive medical bills can be and how terrible the fallout could be from a serious accident if you injure another driver and their passengers. It’s quite possible that those expenses would be far higher than the state minimum limit of bodily injury liability.

How does bodily injury liability work?

Bodily injury liability typically comes with two limits of coverage, meaning how much your insurance will pay for a claim. It usually has a “per person” limit and a “per occurrence” limit. The per-person limit is how much your insurance will pay for an individual’s medical expenses  while the per-occurrence limit is how much your insurance will cover for the entire accident (like if you injure the other driver and their passengers.)

Let’s give an example.

You run a red light and cause an accident. The other driver had two passengers. The driver’s medical expenses come to $15,000. Passenger A’s expenses come to $28,000. And Passenger C has $20,000 of medical expenses. That comes to a grand total of $63,000.

Now, let’s say that your bodily injury liability insurance limits are $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. Your insurance would cover up to $25,000 for each person’s expenses…but only up to $50,000 for the entire accident.

In our example, you’d have $13,000 left over after your insurance kicked in. And that could be for you to pay. Yikes.

Hence why it’s so important to have higher limits of bodily injury insurance – and why you might want to consider getting more insurance than the state minimum limit of car insurance.

What is property damage liability?

Now, bodily injury liability is different than property damage liability (which is also required by many, many states.) While bodily injury liability helps take care of the other driver’s medical expenses and such, property damage liability takes care of the, well, property damage side of things.

Property damage liability insurance can help repair or replace the other driver’s car if you’re at fault in an accident. It also may help you out if you happen to hit something like a fence. So, if you rear-end someone and cause some minor damage to the back of their car, your property damage liability can help you out.

(Note that your property damage liability does not help you repair or replace your car following an accident – you would need collision coverage for that.)

Liability insurance as a whole.

One last thing to decode.

When insurance people talk about liability insurance for cars, they usually describe limits by giving three numbers – for example, $25,000/$50,000/$25,000 (or, to make things simpler, 25/50/25.)

But what the heck does that mean?

The first number (in our example, 25) is the amount of per-person bodily injury liability insurance you have – $25,000. The second (in our example, 50) is the amount of bodily injury liability insurance that you have per occurrence – $50,000. The last number (in our example, 25) is the amount of property damage liability you have – $25,000.

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Like we said, it’s really important to have enough liability insurance. Accidents happen – driving is dangerous. But our agents can help you get car insurance quotes. All you have to do is fill out our online form or give us a call today and we’ll be happy to assist.