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What is bodily injury liability coverage?


What is bodily injury liability mean in terms of auto insurance? The short answer is that bodily injury liability insurance helps pay for medical expenses and lost income for those you injure in accident you cause. It is one component of liability car insurance, which is required to drive legally.

What does bodily injury liability insurance 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

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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 injured in an accident you cause 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 state minimum liability auto insurance requirements you must carry to drive legally.

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.

How much bodily injury liability do I need?

The Insurance Information Institute (III) and Senior Consumer Analyst for CarInsurance.com Penny Gusner 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. 

How much does bodily injury insurance cost?

As we mentioned earlier, bodily injury coverage is part of your liability insurance, which also includes property damage liability, that pays for damage you do to other cars and property in accidents you cause. Both bodily injury and property damage liability are packaged together when you buy a policy. 

The cost of bodily injury insurance depends on how much liability coverage you buy. You have to have at least the minimum mandated by state car insurance laws. The average cost for bare-bones liability insurance, your state minimum, is $526, according to a CarInsurance.com rate analysis. But increasing your coverage amount doesn't cost that much more, for the average driver.

Consider the following, based on CarInsurance.com’s analysis of rates from up to six major insurers for nearly all ZIP codes:

  • The nationwide average cost for state minimum liability coverage is $526
  • Increasing that coverage to $50,000/$100,000/$50,000 averages only $561. So, you only pay another $35 a year by increasing your coverage.

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.

What is the difference between bodily injury liability and medical expense car insurance 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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Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided are for information purposes. They are not intended to substitute informed professional advice. These responses should not be interpreted as a recommendation to buy or sell any insurance product, or to provide financial or legal advice. Please refer to your insurance policy for specific coverage and exclusion information. Please read our Terms of Service.

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