What is bodily injury liability insurance?
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Your auto policy includes several types of coverage, and while all of them are typically important, your bodily injury liability insurance plays a vital role in helping to protect you financially after an at-fault accident. Not only is adequate bodily injury coverage typically essential to a well-rounded car insurance policy, but you are more than likely required to carry a minimum level of this type of coverage to drive legally in your state. If you’re wondering how this type of coverage works or how much you should carry, Bankrate has broken down what you need to know about bodily injury liability insurance.
- Bodily injury liability insurance offers protection for out-of-pocket expenses when you cause injuries to others in an auto accident.
- Bodily injury liability insurance does not cover medical costs for you and your passengers. It also does not pay to repair damage to vehicles or property.
- Most states require that residents maintain minimum levels of bodily injury liability coverage but many experts recommend increasing these limits to realistically address the risk in today’s litigious environment.
What is bodily injury liability?
Bodily injury coverage pays for the other party’s medical expenses if you are at fault in an accident. If you injure the other driver (or their passengers) in an at-fault accident, your bodily injury coverage will typically step in to pay. It’s important to know, however, that if the other party’s medical bills exceed the amount of bodily injury coverage on your policy, you are responsible for making up the difference.
If you don’t have the funds to pay, the other party could take you to court to recoup the unpaid losses related to the accident. To avoid what could be a significant out-of-pocket expense, it’s generally advisable that you carry sufficient bodily injury coverage. The best car insurance companies will help tailor a package that balances affordability with protection.
What does bodily injury liability insurance cover?
Bodily injury liability coverage can help pay several types of expenses, including:
- Funeral expenses: If another driver or their passenger dies in a road accident that you cause, your bodily injury liability coverage can help pay funeral and burial costs.
- Legal expenses: When an accident victim sues you for causing bodily injuries, this type of coverage can help pay your attorney’s fees and a court award.
- Lost wages: If injuries render an accident victim unable to work, your bodily injury liability coverage can help replace lost income.
- Medical bills: Bodily injury liability coverage can help pay various medical expenses, including, emergency room fees, hospital costs, medical equipment and surgery bills. The coverage can also pay for doctor’s visits and rehabilitation costs.
- Pain and suffering: Besides paying your legal expenses, your bodily injury liability coverage can also pay the accident victim for the pain and suffering caused by injuries.
What does bodily injury liability insurance not cover?
As you can see, bodily injury liability coverage can cover a variety of expenses. However, it will not cover:
- Medical expenses of you and your passengers: To cover the medical bills of you and your passengers, you will need to carry medical payments or personal injury protection coverage.
- Damage to another driver’s vehicle: To cover damage you cause to another driver’s car, you will need property damage liability coverage.
- Damage to your automobile: Collision and comprehensive coverages protect your vehicle, but bodily injury liability coverage does not.
How much bodily liability injury insurance do you need?
Most states require motorists to carry minimum levels of car insurance. Most require each driver to purchase bodily injury and property damage liability coverages. Some also require all drivers to carry medical payments or personal injury protection coverages, and some states also require car owners to buy uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage or both.
State laws also dictate the minimum levels of liability coverage you must purchase. When you research the compulsory coverages you must carry, you will likely see the requirements described as three numbers, separated by forward slashes. For example, Arizona requires drivers to carry bodily injury and personal property liability coverages, with minimum limits of 25/50/15. Here is what each number means:
- 25: $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage to cover the medical costs of one person in a single accident.
- 50: $50,000 in bodily injury liability coverage to cover the medical costs of more than one person in a single accident.
- 15: $15,000 in property damage liability to cover the repair costs of another driver when you are at fault for an accident.
The minimum amounts of liability coverage you must purchase vary by state. Nonetheless, this three-number way of describing the requirement applies to all states.
Bankrate’s study on car insurance rates by state for 2022 includes a list of the minimum required bodily injury liability limits in each state:
|State||Required bodily injury liability coverage
(one person, one accident / all persons, one accident)
|AL||$25,000 / $50,000|
|AK||$50,000 / $100,000|
|AZ||$25,000 / $50,000|
|AR||$25,000 / $50,000|
|CA||$15,000 / $30,000|
|CO||$25,000 / $50,000|
|CT||$25,000 / $50,000|
|DE||$25,000 / $50,000|
|DC||$25,000 / $50,000|
|FL||Bodily injury liability is not required in Florida but drivers do have to prove their ability to pay for damages under the “financial responsibility law.” If a driver does purchase car insurance to satisfy the law, the minimum requirements are:
$10,000 / $20,000
|GA||$25,000 / $50,000|
|HI||$20,000 / $40,000|
|ID||$25,000 / $50,000|
|IL||$25,000 / $50,000|
|IN||$25,000 / $50,000|
|IA||$20,000 / $40,000|
|KS||$25,000 / $50,000|
|KY||$25,000 / $50,000|
|LA||$15,000 / $30,000|
|ME||$50,000 / $100,000|
|MD||$30,000 / $60,000|
|MA||$20,000 / $40,000|
|MI||$50,000 / $100,000|
|MN||$30,000 / $60,000|
|MS||$25,000 / $50,000|
|MO||$25,000 / $50,000|
|MT||$25,000 / $50,000|
|NE||$25,000 / $50,000|
|NV||$25,000 / $50,000|
|NH||New Hampshire does not legally require car insurance. The minimum bodily injury liability limits available if a driver does choose to purchase auto insurance are:
$25,000 / $50,000
|NM||$25,000 / $50,000|
|NY||25,000 / $50,000|
|NC||$30,000 / $60,000|
|ND||$25,000 / $50,000|
|OH||$25,000 / $50,000|
|OK||$25,000 / $50,000|
|OR||$25,000 / $50,000|
|PA||$15,000 / $30,000|
|RI||$25,000 / $50,000|
|SC||$25,000 / $50,000|
|SD||$25,000 / $50,000|
|TN||$25,000 / $50,000|
|TX||$30,000 / $60,000|
|UT||$25,000 / $65,000|
|VT||$25,000 / $50,000|
|VA||Car insurance is not required in Virginia as long as the driver pays a yearly $500 uninsured motorist fee. If a driver does purchase car insurance, the minimum requirements are:
$25,000 / $50,000
|WA||$25,000 / $50,000|
|WV||$25,000 / $50,000|
|WI||$25,000 / $50,000|
|WY||$25,000 / $50,000|
* Per Bill S481, the minimum limit for bodily injury on a standard policy in New Jersey will increase to $25,000 / $50,000 as of January 1, 2023. This minimum limit will increase again on January 1, 2026, to $35,000 / $70,000.
Is bodily injury coverage required in every state?
Although nearly every state requires bodily injury coverage, some exceptions exist, namely Florida, New Hampshire, Virginia and New Jersey. While these states may not explicitly require bodily injury coverage, they do have other mandates that drivers must meet to satisfy state requirements.
In Florida, the only two coverages you are required to carry are personal injury protection (PIP) and property damage (PD). Although some drivers have the option to waive bodily injury coverage, that does not mean that Floridians don’t need to have protection for other people’s injuries in place. Instead of carrying bodily injury, drivers with a net worth of at least $40,000 can waive this coverage and meet financial responsibility requirements by submitting a notarized copy of a financial statement to the DMV. However, not all car insurance companies offer the option to waive bodily injury. Additionally, you may still be required to carry bodily injury if you have a serious violation on your record, such as a DUI. If you wish to waive your bodily injury coverage in Florida, you may want to contact your agent for more information.
New Hampshire car insurance laws are unique. In fact, New Hampshire is one of the only states in the country that does not require car insurance. Like Florida, however, the state may require you to carry SR-22 insurance if you’ve been convicted of a serious offense or were uninsured in an accident.
While Virginia does not technically require its drivers to carry car insurance, they must pay a yearly $500 uninsured motorist fee to waive the typical insurance requirement. Even if a driver opts to pay the uninsured motorist fee, the uninsured driver is still held liable for any damage or injuries they may cause in an accident. This fee is also not used to provide coverage if it is needed after an accident.
There are two main policy types available in New Jersey: basic and standard. Although bodily injury coverage is required on a standard policy, this coverage is optional for those covered under a basic policy. However, drivers with a basic policy can still choose to carry bodily injury, but the maximum limit is quite low at $10,000 per accident.
Even if you live in a state that doesn’t require bodily injury, waiving this coverage could have devastating consequences. According to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I), the national average cost of bodily injuries in an accident was $20,235 in 2020. For many drivers, this unexpected expense could be a tremendous hardship, leading to asset forfeiture and even bankruptcy.
Aside from the possibility of a hefty out-of-pocket payout, being involved in an at-fault accident without carrying bodily injury can cause license suspensions and fines, even if this coverage is optional. Take Florida, for instance. If you’re at fault in an accident, cause injuries and don’t carry bodily injury coverage, the DMV can suspend your license if you did not supply the proper documents to meet financial responsibility requirements. Additionally, you may be required to carry SR-22 insurance.
Bodily injury liability limits
California requires all motorists to carry at least $15,000 worth of bodily injury coverage to pay the medical bills of one person in an accident and $30,000 to cover the medical costs of more than one person. But that is very likely not enough. In fact, required minimum liability limits in all states do not reflect the actual cost of paying for auto accident injuries.
According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the average expense of mending a broken leg can cost as much as $7,500 and a three-day stay in the hospital can run $30,000. So, if you are at fault for an accident and the other driver sustains a broken leg, the medical bills could cost $37,000 or more. That does not include compensation for lost wages or pain and suffering. If you only purchased California’s minimum level of bodily injury liability coverage, you would be on the hook for at least $22,000. If the injured driver does not have medical insurance or underinsured motorist coverage, they could sue you to recoup losses.
Financial experts recommend that you carry at least $100,000 in bodily injury liability coverage for one injured person and $300,000 to pay the expenses of multiple victims. Most major car insurance providers will allow you to increase your coverage to these levels, perhaps even higher.
For maximum protection, purchase a personal umbrella liability policy. Umbrella insurance takes over when your car insurance liability coverages hit their limits. For example, if you cause an accident and the other driver sustains an injury that costs $350,000 in medical expenses but you only carry $300,000 in bodily injury liability coverage, your umbrella policy can cover the additional $50,000.
Although they start at $1 million in coverage, an umbrella policy is generally one of the cheaper insurance policies you can buy. A single umbrella policy adds an extra layer of liability coverage to your auto and home or renters policies.
Frequently asked questions
Typically, you can find information about your state’s compulsory car insurance on your state’s department of insurance website. Some state departments of transportation also feature insurance requirements on their websites. Local insurance agents should stay abreast of state requirements, but it is always a good idea to research the information on your own before shopping and comparing car insurance rates.
Filing a car insurance claim is generally a straightforward process, but the steps can vary from company to company. For example, some insurers have an online portal or mobile app that allows for electronic claim filing. Others may require that you call your local agency or a 24/7 claims hotline. To find out more about the claims process for your insurer, it may be helpful to ask your agent for specifics.
According to Bankrate’s analysis of premium rate data from Quadrant Data Services, the national average cost of car insurance for a minimum coverage liability-only policy is $545 per year. Depending on your circumstances, though, you may pay more or less than average. Car insurance companies may use several factors to calculate your rate, including your location, vehicle, driving history and, depending on your state, your credit score. Additionally, each insurance company weighs these factors differently. As such, it can be helpful to shop around and get personalized quotes if you’re looking for the cheapest car insurance companies for bodily injury coverage.