Liability auto insurance is typically required by law in most states to ensure that drivers cover the financial consequences of accidents they cause. The minimum coverage limits vary depending on your policy and the state’s minimum insurance requirements. However, it’s important to choose limits that adequately protect your financial assets in case of a serious accident.

What is liability car insurance and why do I need it?

Liability car insurance is a type of auto insurance that provides coverage for injuries and property damage you may cause to others in the event of a car accident. 

If you cause an accident, liability insurance covers the costs associated with property damage, medical bills and legal fees resulting from injuries or damage caused to others involved. 

In most states, liability insurance is mandatory. It is required by law to have a minimum level of liability coverage to legally operate a vehicle. Driving without it can result in fines or license suspension.

Liability car insurance only covers damages to others, not your own vehicle or injuries. Consider getting additional coverage options like collision and comprehensive insurance to protect yourself and your car in case of accidents, theft or other incidents. 

What does auto liability insurance cover?

Liability car insurance is a type of coverage that helps protect you financially if you cause an accident and are held responsible for any injuries or property damage. 

Here’s what liability car insurance typically covers:

  • Bodily injury liability: This part of the coverage helps pay for medical expenses, lost wages and legal fees for the other party involved in the accident if you’re found at fault. 
  • Property damage liability: It helps pay for the repair or replacement of the other party’s vehicle or property that you damaged in the accident.

Liability insurance usually does not cover your own medical expenses or property damage. To protect yourself and your own vehicle, you need additional coverage like collision and comprehensive insurance.

What does bodily injury liability cover?

Here’s what bodily injury liability typically covers:

  • Bodily injury liability coverage can help pay for the medical bills and healthcare expenses of individuals who are injured in the accident you caused.
  • If the injured parties decide to file a lawsuit against you for their injuries, bodily injury liability insurance can cover your legal defense costs.
  • In some cases, bodily injury liability may also provide compensation for the pain and suffering endured by the injured parties as a result of the accident.
  • If the accident leads to the injured parties being unable to work and earn, bodily injury liability insurance can provide compensation for their lost wages.
  • In an unfortunate event that someone dies in the accident, bodily injury liability coverage can help cover the cost of their funeral and burial expenses.

Learn more about what 100/300 bodily injury liability insurance is

What does property damage liability cover?

If you are at fault in an accident and your vehicle causes damage to another person’s car, truck, motorcycle or other vehicles, your property damage liability coverage will cover the cost of repairs or replacement. Property damage liability insurance also covers damage to buildings, fences, guardrails, street signs, light poles and other structures that may be damaged as a result of a car accident you caused. 

What isn’t covered by liability car insurance coverage?

There are certain situations and types of expenses that are typically not covered by liability car insurance. 

  • Damage to your own vehicle: Liability insurance coverage only covers damages to other vehicles or property, not your own. If you want coverage for your own vehicle, you will need to add collision and comprehensive insurance.
  • Medical expenses for yourself or your passengers: Liability insurance does not cover medical bills for you or your passengers. You will need to get personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments coverage to cover these expenses.
  • Uninsured or underinsured motorists: Liability auto insurance doesn’t cover damages caused by uninsured or underinsured drivers. To protect yourself in such situations, you need uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

What is an example of liability auto insurance coverage?

Imagine you’re driving your car on a rainy day and you accidentally lose control of your vehicle while taking a turn. As a result, you collide with another car, causing damage to the vehicle and injuring the other driver.

The other driver’s car sustains minor damage and they suffer a minor neck strain due to the impact. Their insurance company assesses the damage to the car and determines that it will cost $3,000 to repair and medical expenses and lost wages amount to $10,000.

In this scenario, liability car insurance comes into play. If you’re carrying 50/100/50 in liability insurance, bodily injury liability coverage will pay $10,000 for medical bills and lost wages and property damage liability will pay $3,000 for car repairs.

The bottom line

It’s true that liability-only policies are often the cheapest option, but they also provide the least amount of protection.

While there are various insurers who offer cheap auto liability insurance, these policies only protect you against expenses resulting from injuries or property damage you cause. Your own vehicle damages will not be covered and you’ll have to bear the cost of repairs out of pocket.

Make sure you purchase higher liability limits or adequate car insurance coverage to stay protected in the event of an accident.

Find out how liability insurance functions for teens

Frequently asked questions on what liability car insurance covers

Does liability car insurance cover my car if I hit someone?

No. Liability car insurance does not cover damage to your own vehicle. So, if you hit someone while driving, your liability insurance will help cover the other person’s medical expenses and property damage, but it won’t pay for the repairs to your own car. And remember – your policy will only cover up to the limits of your policy.

What does liability insurance not cover in the event of an accident?

Liability insurance typically does not cover damages to your vehicle caused by events such as collision, natural disasters, theft or vandalism. These types of damages are usually covered by comprehensive or collision insurance. It also doesn’t cover any injuries to your passengers in an accident.

Laura Longero

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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

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John McCormick

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John is the editorial director for, and 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

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Leslie Kasperowicz

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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 and and managing content, now at

Nupur Gambhir

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Nupur Gambhir

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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.

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Contributing Writer

Shivani Gite is a personal finance and insurance writer with a degree in journalism and mass communication. She is passionate about making insurance topics easy to understand for people and helping them make better financial decisions. When not writing, you can find her reading a book or watching anime.