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Bodily Injury Liability

What does bodily injury liability coverage cover?

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 car insurance will pay, up to your policy limits, for:

  • Medical expensesCast and crutches
  • 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.

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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.

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.

Is medical expense car insurance coverage necessary if I have bodily injury liability coverage?

Bodily injury liability and medical payment are not the same type of coverage, each is in place to cover different things. BI is to cover those that you may cause injury to when at fault in an accident while Medical Payments coverage is there to cover you and your passengers when you are injured, no matter who was at fault in the accident. There may also be coverage if as a pedestrian a vehicle injures you.

Medical payments may also cover policyholders and their family members when they are injured while riding in someone else's car or when they are hit by a car while on foot or bicycling. Coverage of course is limited to the terms and conditions contained in your specific car insurance policy.

Bodily injury on the other hand does not cover you if you are injured in an accident. Bodily injury liability (BI or BIL) is for those that you cause injuries to when you are at fault in an accident. BI is mandatory in most states.

Bodily injury covers other people's bodily injuries or death for which you are responsible. It also provides for a legal defense if another party in the accident files a lawsuit against you. Claims for bodily injury may be for such things as medical bills, loss of income or pain and suffering. In the event of a serious accident, you want enough insurance to cover a judgment against you in a lawsuit, without jeopardizing your personal assets.

If you and your regular passengers already have health insurance that covers similar expenses, medical payments coverage may be unnecessary. Check your health insurance policy for details since some exclude coverage for injuries received in a car accident.

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