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Bodily injury liability coverage

This pays medical bills for anyone you injure in an accident, plus legal fees if you go to court.

In most states, you’re required to have a specified amount of bodily injury liability. This coverage helps you pay costs that result from injuries you cause to another person in a car accident.

What is bodily injury liability?

Bodily injury liability coverage helps you pay medical bills for injuries that you cause to another person — if you’re at fault, and you hit them or their vehicle. Specifically, bodily injury liability covers:

  • Emergency medical services
  • Hospital and doctor fees
  • Follow-up doctor visits
  • Rehabilitation
  • Legal help
  • Funerals
  • Pain and suffering

How bodily injury liability coverage works

Let’s say that you have 100/300 in bodily injury liability coverage. This means your insurance will pay claims totaling $100,000 for each person injured and $300,000 total for all injuries per accident.

While driving along the freeway, you hit the car in front of you and cause a multicar pileup. You’re later found liable for the medical costs of five people, and each bill ranges from $30,000 to $40,000. Luckily your individual limit covers the payments, which total $160,000.

How much does bodily injury liability cost?

Expect both bodily injury and property damage liability insurance to cost you between $1,000 and $2,000 a year. However, the overall cost of liability coverage will vary depending on factors such as your age, where you live and your driving history.

Liability coverage usually doesn’t have a deductible. So you won’t pay out of pocket after an accident for other people’s medical bills, although your insurance company may raise your premium. This means that if you injure someone in an accident, your insurance covers the cost of the medical bills.

How much bodily injury liability do I need?

You need at least the minimum amount of liability coverage required by your state — most states require at least 25/50 in bodily injury liability. However, consider buying as much liability as your budget can afford, such as 100/300/100. This way, you can limit the possibility of paying out-of-pocket costs and protect your assets.

Your bodily injury liability coverage is included as one of two parts of your liability coverage on your auto insurance policy — the second part is your property damage liability insurance. You’ll choose your bodily injury and property damage liability maximums when purchasing your auto insurance policy.

What are the requirements for New Hampshire and Virginia?

If you live in New Hampshire or Virginia, you’re not required to have auto insurance. However, you need to prove you can pay if you cause bodily injury or property damage. The easiest way to do this is by purchasing insurance like in any other state.

It’s not mandatory to have auto insurance in Virginia, either. But like in New Hampshire, you must prove that you can pay for costs stemming from bodily injury or property damage. You can do that by either buying insurance or paying a fee to the DMV.

What does bodily injury liability exclude?

Bodily injury liability coverage doesn’t cover any of your or your passengers’ injuries, and it doesn’t cover damages to your vehicle either. You may consider adding personal injury protection coverage in case you and your passengers also have medical needs.

Bodily injury liability limits, explained

When you buy liability coverage, you can choose a combined single limit or split limit policy.

1. Combined single limit

You’ll see a combined single limit policy written like this: “$300,000 each accident.”

This means you’re protected for up to $300,000 in the event you cause bodily injury or property damage. If you have to pay for damage to a fence as well as the medical costs of three people, then your policy will cover you, as long as it’s under your policy limit.

2. Split limit policy

A split limit policy for bodily insurance might be written like this: “100/300.” These numbers are just shorthand for how much your insurance will cover you for:

The first number is the limit per person injured. The “100” means you have $100,000 of coverage. So if one person makes a claim for $90,000 in medical bills, you’re covered. But if that person accumulates bills totaling $150,000, your insurance won’t cover the full amount, and you’ll be left to cover the difference.

The second number is the overall limit per accident. The “300” means you have $300,000 of coverage. The total cost of all claims for an accident needs to stay within that amount. For example, you’re covered if three people make claims for $100,000 each because of an accident you caused. But you’ll have to pay out of your own pocket for anything beyond that.

Compare companies with bodily injury liability coverage

Name Product Gap insurance Homeowner discount Telematics Has an app? Available states
AARP Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford
All 50 states
Enjoy low rates for mature drivers, plus perks like new car replacement and lifetime repair guarantees. Only for drivers over age 50.
The Zebra
All 50 states
loan/lease coverage
All 50 states & DC
Discover coverage that’s broader than competitors, valuable discounts up to 30% off and perks like shrinking deductibles that reward no claims.
Depends on provider
All 50 states
Get your most compatible insurance options via a "smart matching" method aimed at finding you value.
All 50 states & DC
Affordable car insurance with highly rated customer service. Only available to military members and veterans and their family.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

It’s almost certain that you’ll need bodily injury liability — the question is how much. To protect yourself in most instances, consider getting a policy that covers you above your state’s minimums. Consider what car insurance protection you need, then compare coverage from different car insurance companies to find the right fit for you.

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