Man on phone after car crashMost state laws require drivers to buy two types of liability car insurance coverage to drive legally:

  • Property damage liability car insurance pays to repair or replace cars or other property you hit with your vehicle.
author-img
Written by:
Laura Longero
Executive Editor
Laura is an award-winning editor with experience in content and communications covering auto insurance and personal finance. She has written for several media outlets, including the USA Today Network. She most recently worked in the public sector for the Nevada Department of Transportation.
author
Reviewed by:
John McCormick
reviewer icon
Editorial Director
John is the editorial director for CarInsurance.com, Insurance.com and Insure.com. Before joining QuinStreet, John was a deputy editor at The Wall Street Journal and had been an editor and reporter at a number of other media outlets where he covered insurance, personal finance, and technology.

What does liability car 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 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 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 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 coverage (MedPay).

What does property damage liability cover?

Property damage liability (PD) pays, up to your policy limits, for damages to someone else’s property that you (the policyholder), or other drivers covered by your car insurance policy, are found responsible for after a motor vehicle accident. Property damage typically is damage to another car, but property damage liability also covers damages you may cause to someone’s house, tree, fence, guardrail, pole, etc.

Property damage liability provides you with a legal defense if another party files a lawsuit against you regarding property damage that resulted from an auto accident. Property damage liability does not cover damages to your own vehicle.

For such coverage, you need collision coverage and comprehensive coverage.

Is liability car insurance mandatory?

Yes, in most states, bodily injury liability and property damage liability are required as part of the minimum auto insurance coverages you must carry as a car owner. Each state has its own state car insurance requirements. You can raise your liability limits, which is strongly encouraged in many cases.

Car insurance companies typically require that you carry the same level of liability coverage on each vehicle listed on your policy. In some states, you must have the same liability limits on all cars you own. Even if the state does not require this, some insurance companies will.

A few states do not require bodily injury liability coverage because they have no-fault laws. Under no-fault rules, drivers must carry personal injury protection to pay for their injuries or those of their passengers. Once those limits are exceeded, you are personally liable for the costs of treating any injuries you cause.

Most people buy bodily injury liability insurance even in states with no-fault laws.

Liability coverage at a glance

Bodily injury liability (up to your limits):

  • Pays for damages you cause to others — covers their medical bills and lost wages

Property damage liability (up to your limits):

  • Pays to repair or replace the property you destroy or damage — including other cars
  • If you are sued after an accident, you can also pay for pain and suffering

Liability does not cover the following:

  • Damage to your car from an accident
  • Your injuries
  • Damage to your car from animal strikes, hail, fire, vandalism or flooding
  • Theft

Explore our detailed guide on what liability car insurance covers

How much does liability car insurance cost?

Liability insurance cost depends on how much coverage you get and other factors, such as your age, where you live, your driving record, and other variables. To give you an idea of how much liability costs for the average driver, here are rates based on a 2020 CarInsurance.com rate analysis.

For example, listed below is the average cost of car insurance for three coverage levels, as follows:

  • State minimum: This varies by state, and many states have different limits, but a typical amount is $25,000 for medical bills for injuries in an accident you cause, up to $50,000 per accident, with $25,000 for property damage you cause (25/50/25)
  • Liability limits of $50,000 for injuries you cause in an accident, up to $100,000 per accident, with $50,000 to pay for property damage (50/100/50)
  • Full coverage with comprehensive and collision, which cover damage to your car, carrying a $500 deductible, $100,000 for injuries you cause in an accident, up to $300,000 per accident, with $100,000 for property damage (100/300/100)
Average cost of car insurance for three coverage levels
RateState Minimum50/100/50100/300/100
Average Rate$574$644$1,758
Monthly Average Rate$48$54$147

States that have the lowest average cost for state minimum liability insurance are shown in the table below.

States with the lowest average cost for state minimum liability insurance
State Lowest average rate for the state minimum
South Dakota$323
Iowa$326
Wyoming$328
Maine$355
Idaho$377
Virginia$380
Nebraska$393
Vermont$398
Wisconsin$401
Ohio$406

States that have the highest average cost for state minimum liability insurance are shown in the table below.

States with the highest average cost for state minimum liability insurance
State Highest average rates for the state minimum
Michigan$1,855
Connecticut$891
New York$867
Maryland$853
New Jersey$846
Delaware$843
DC$839
Florida$828
Louisiana$771
Rhode Island$738

Drivers in the following states pay the least for liability limits of 50/100/50.

States paying the least for liability limits of 50/100/50
State Lowest average rate for liability with limits of 50/100/50
Iowa$354
Wyoming$354
Maine$359
South Dakota$362
Idaho$415
Alaska$420
Virginia$424
Nebraska$426
Ohio$427
Vermont$434

Drivers in the following states pay the most for liability limits of 50/100/50.

States paying the most for liability limits of 50/100/50
State Highest average rate for liability with limits of 50/100/50
Michigan$1,919
Florida$1,100
New Jersey$1,025
Connecticut$972
New York$960
Louisiana$955
DC$949
Nevada$945
Delaware$943
Rhode Island$921

How much liability car insurance do I need?

In many states, the legal minimum is insufficient to pay for serious injuries or replace a late-model car. It is only enough to drive legally. Buy the minimum only if you have no savings or home to shield from lawsuits.

The Insurance Information Institute (III) and other insurance industry experts recommend motorists carry bodily injury liability coverage of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident (100/300 coverage). For property damage liability coverage, $100,000 is recommended. If you can afford higher limits, that is even better for protecting your assets. Liability insurance beyond these amounts tends to be very inexpensive.

To see what you can expect to pay, here are average car insurance rates by state for the recommended liability limits of 100/300/100. Optional comprehensive and collision are also included in these rates, typically purchased with these liability amounts. Enter your state in the search field to find your rate. The average rate nationwide is $1,758.

Average car insurance rates by state for the recommended liability limits of 100/300/100
State Average rate full coverage
Michigan$3,141
Louisiana$2,601
Nevada$2,402
Kentucky$2,368
DC$2,188
Florida$2,162
California$2,125
New York$2,062
Rhode Island$2,040
Connecticut$2,036
New Jersey$1,993
Montana$1,963
Colorado$1,948
Delaware$1,921
Georgia$1,865
Texas$1,823
Maryland$1,816
Oklahoma$1,815
Missouri$1,798
Arizona$1,783
Wyoming$1,782
Arkansas$1,763
Alabama$1,713
Pennsylvania$1,700
Kansas$1,689
Mississippi$1,684
West Virginia$1,654
South Carolina$1,653
South Dakota$1,643
Washington$1,620
Minnesota$1,619
New Mexico$1,604
Hawaii$1,589
North Dakota$1,577
Alaska$1,560
Illinois$1,538
Nebraska$1,500
Oregon$1,496
Tennessee$1,493
Utah$1,492
Massachusetts$1,466
North Carolina$1,425
Vermont$1,410
Iowa$1,352
Wisconsin$1,335
Idaho$1,285
Indiana$1,266
Virginia$1,196
Ohio$1,191
New Hampshire$1,086
Maine$1,080

Increasing your liability protection is affordable

Liability insurance is the heart of any car insurance policy — it is required to drive legally and pays for damages and medical bills of others when you cause an accident. However, the state minimum is rarely enough to protect your assets and savings if you cause an accident. You are responsible for paying the difference if the repairs and bills exceed your liability limit.

To see what the average driver pays for liability coverage in each state, and how much more you pay to boost your coverage, see the table below.

Average cost for liability coverage in each state
State Average rate state minimum Average rate 50/100/50 $ more for increased coverage % for increased coverage
South Dakota$323$362$3912%
Iowa$326$354$289%
Wyoming$328$354$268%
Maine$355$359$41%
Idaho$377$415$3810%
Virginia$380$424$4412%
Nebraska$393$426$338%
Vermont$398$434$369%
Wisconsin$401$450$4912%
Ohio$406$427$215%
Alaska$412$420$82%
Mississippi$413$477$6415%
Oklahoma$418$455$379%
North Dakota$423$453$307%
New Hampshire$424$447$235%
Indiana$430$466$368%
North Carolina$438$481$4310%
Montana$447$487$409%
Arkansas$449$479$307%
Tennessee$462$514$5211%
Kansas$464$496$327%
New Mexico$479$536$5712%
Hawaii$485$558$7315%
Illinois$493$545$5211%
Alabama$498$545$479%
Pennsylvania$502$584$8216%
Massachusetts$520$651$13125%
Washington$537$587$509%
Texas$538$565$275%
West Virginia$541$608$6712%
Missouri$546$601$5510%
Colorado$553$604$519%
Utah$565$596$315%
Arizona$578$707$12922%
California$606$752$14624%
Minnesota$614$663$498%
South Carolina$617$673$569%
Kentucky$669$756$8713%
Oregon$674$724$507%
Georgia$684$754$7010%
Nevada$717$945$22832%
Rhode Island$738$921$18325%
Louisiana$771$955$18424%
Florida$828$1,100$27233%
DC$839$949$11013%
Delaware$843$943$10012%
New Jersey$846$1,025$17921%
Maryland$853$901$486%
New York$867$960$9311%
Connecticut$891$972$819%
Michigan$1,855$1,919$643%

FAQ: Liability car insurance

What happens if I don’t have liability car insurance?

If you don’t carry liability and the state requires it, penalties such as fines, suspension of your license, and/or vehicle registration can be levied.

Also, without bodily injury liability and property damage liability coverage on your car insurance policy, you will be held personally responsible for any injuries or damages you cause to others in an auto accident. This could mean you will be forced to liquidate property, savings and other assets to pay for a judgment against you.

If you carry bodily injury liability coverage with low limits, you could still be putting yourself at risk financially. If you cause a serious accident where injury expenses exceed your limits, you can be held responsible for the amount above your limits.

The same applies to property damage liability insurance. Every state requires that you take financial responsibility in the event of an accident. If you have low limits on your property damage liability coverage, you are personally liable for the amount over and above what your insurance pays.

Can liability car insurance be used for your car?

No. Your liability coverage can never be used to pay for damages to your vehicle or to recoup its actual cash value (ACV) if your car is totaled in an accident. You can’t make a property damage liability claim against yourself for your property.

Car insurance policies are usually written so that liability coverage protects members of your household against claims brought by people not part of your household — the other guy.

How does liability insurance work with collision insurance?

Both property damage liability and collision insurance pay for damages to cars from an auto accident but are claimed differently.

Your liability coverages – property damage and bodily injury – protect you when someone files a claim against you for an accident you caused.

Your collision covers your car for damages it receives when it hits or is hit by another vehicle or object, regardless of fault.

So, you can file a claim against your collision coverage for any damages your car sustains. Still, the other driver in an accident you caused would file a claim against you that your liability insurance would cover.

Collision also differs from property damage coverage because it comes with a deductible. A deductible is an amount you must pay out of pocket before your insurance benefits kick in.

Your car insurance company will pay for the other party’s repairs through your liability coverage without a deductible being due.

What is the average property damage liability claim amount?

Among property damage liability claims, the average amount paid in 2018 was $3,593, up 3.2% annualized from $2,792 in 2010. The median payment in 2018 was $2,165, according to a November 2020 report, the latest data, from the Insurance Research Council (IRC).

Rhode Island had the highest average property damage liability payment, with an average of $3,669 across the three claim years studied: 2010, 2014 and 2018. Rhode Island was also the state with the most significant increase. The annualized percent change in average payment in the state from 2010 through 2018 was 6.3%.

Other states with relatively high average PD liability payments included Arkansas ($3,618), Alaska ($3,581), and Louisiana ($3,546). Among the states with low average payments were the District of Columbia ($2,371), Vermont ($2,518), and New Hampshire ($2,698).

Resources & Methodology

Methodology

CarInsurance.com commissioned Quadrant Information Services to report average auto insurance rates for a 2016 Honda Accord for nearly every ZIP code in the United States. We calculated rates using data for up to six large carriers (Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, Nationwide, Progressive and State Farm). Averages are based on insurance for single 40-year-old driver, with policy limits of 100/300/100 ($100,000 for injury liability for one person, $300,000 for all injuries and $100,000 for property damage in an accident) and a $500 deductible on collision and comprehensive coverage. This hypothetical driver has a clean record and good credit. The rate includes uninsured motorist coverage. Average rates are for comparative purposes. Your own rate will depend on your personal factors and vehicle.

Laura Longero

Ask the Insurance Expert

Laura Longero

Executive Editor

Laura is an award-winning editor with experience in content and communications covering auto insurance and personal finance. She has written for several media outlets, including the USA Today Network. She most recently worked in the public sector for the Nevada Department of Transportation.

John McCormick

Ask the Insurance Expert

John McCormick

Editorial Director

John is the editorial director for CarInsurance.com, Insurance.com and Insure.com. Before joining QuinStreet, John was a deputy editor at The Wall Street Journal and had been an editor and reporter at a number of other media outlets where he covered insurance, personal finance, and technology.

Leslie Kasperowicz

Ask the Insurance Expert

Leslie Kasperowicz

Managing Editor

Leslie Kasperowicz is an insurance educator and content creation professional with nearly two decades of experience first directly in the insurance industry at Farmers Insurance and then as a writer, researcher, and educator for insurance shoppers writing for sites like ExpertInsuranceReviews.com and InsuranceHotline.com and managing content, now at CarInsurance.com.

Nupur Gambhir

Ask the Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir

Managing Editor

Nupur Gambhir is a content editor and licensed life, health, and disability insurance expert. She has extensive experience bringing brands to life and has built award-nominated campaigns for travel and tech. Her insurance expertise has been featured in Bloomberg News, Forbes Advisor, CNET, Fortune, Slate, Real Simple, Lifehacker, The Financial Gym, and the end-of-life planning service.

Please Enter Valid Question. Min 50 to max 250 characters are allowed. Only (& ? , .) charcters are allowed.
Please Enter Valid Email.
Error: Security check failed
Thank You, Your message has been received. Our team of auto insurance experts typically answers questions within five working days. Note that due to the volume of questions we receive, not all may be answered. Due to technical error, please try again later.
Get quotes near you!
Please enter valid zip
author image
Executive Editor

Laura is an award-winning editor with experience in content and communications covering auto insurance and personal finance. She has written for several media outlets, including the USA Today Network. She most recently worked in the public sector for the Nevada Department of Transportation.