What does bodily injury liability coverage do?
Bodily injury liability (BI) pays, up to your policy limits, for injuries or death that you (the policyholder), or other drivers covered by your car insurance policy, are found responsible for after a motor vehicle accident. Policy terms vary but typically bodily injury liability coverage will pay, up to your policy limits, for:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of income
- Pain and suffering
- Legal defense if a lawsuit results from the auto accident
Policy limits for bodily injury liability are per person and per accident and coverage is written as such. For example, $25,000/$50,000 means that the maximum payout per person is $25,000, and the maximum payout for all people injured in one accident is $50,000. This coverage may also be simply written as 25/50.
Bodily injury liability does NOT cover your injuries, only the injuries of others that you are liable for. For your personal injuries to be covered, you would need coverages such as personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments (MedPay).
Is bodily injury liability coverage mandatory?
Yes, in most all states bodily injury liability is required as part of the minimum auto insurance coverages you must carry as a car owner. (See minimum required coverages by state.)
Car insurance companies normally require that you carry the same level of liability coverage on each vehicle listed on your policy. In some states, you must carry the same liability limits on all cars that you own.
Recommended limits for bodily injury liability coverage
The Insurance Information Institute (III) and other insurance industry experts recommend bodily injury liability coverage of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident (referred to as 100/300 coverage). If you can afford higher limits, that is even better for the protection of your assets.
What happens if I don’t have bodily injury liability coverage?
If you don’t carry bodily injury liability and the state requires it, then penalties can be handed out, such as fines and suspension of your license, and/or vehicle registration.
Also, without bodily injury liability coverage on your car insurance policy, you will be held personally responsible for any injuries you cause to others in an auto accident. This could mean you are forced to liquidate property, savings and other assets in order to pay for a judgment against you.
A few states don’t require bodily injury liability coverage; however, it is still recommended that you carry this coverage to better protect you and your assets.
If you do carry bodily injury liability coverage, but with low limits, you still could be putting yourself at risk financially, since if you cause a serious accident where injury expenses exceed your limits you can be held responsible for the amount above your limits.