Bodily injury liability insurance: what is it and what does it cover? | (2023)

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Bodily injury liability insurance: what is it and what does it cover? | (1)

Mary Van Keuren /

October 7, 2020

(Video) What is Bodily Injury Liability Coverage?

    Article Highlights

    If you’ve ever read the fine print of your car insurance policy, you will have probably seen that you’re covered for bodily injury liability, or BIL. That’s not something you need to think about — until you’re in an accident that includes injuries. Suddenly your BIL coverage becomes very important.

    What is bodily injury liability

    A bodily injury liability insurance definition is that it covers the costs when you have an at-fault accident that results in injuries to the other driver, their passengers or pedestrians. The costs covered include:

    • Medical expenses from ambulance costs and hospitalization to equipment such as a walker or crutches.
    • Loss of income if the injured party is unable to work due to their injuries.
    • Legal fees if the injured party files a lawsuit against you.
    • Funeral costs if a death results from the injuries.

    How bodily injury liability works

    There are two types of BIL coverage, and commonly, you’ll have both. First is the BIL coverage per person and second is per accident. You’ll see them written as numbers, such as 25/50. This means your policy will cover $25,000 worth of costs per person for each accident and $50,000 total, regardless of how many people are injured, per accident.

    (Video) What Does Bodily Injury Insurance Cover? : Car Insurance

    There’s also a third type of coverage called property damage liability, which covers costs to repair the other driver’s car or any other damage, such as to a fence or tree. Your insurance coverage may be written: 25/50/25, with the first two numbers related to your BIL coverage, and third to your property damage coverage — in this case, for $25,000.

    Let’s take a look at how it works. Let’s say you are late for work and you run a red light. Unfortunately, you hit a car that is legally in the intersection, causing injuries to the driver that result in $35,000 medical bills. If you have 25/50 coverage, your insurer will pay $25,000, and you’ll have to pay the remaining $10,000.

    If there’s a second person in the car who sustains an injury costing $10,000, your insurer will cover that, because the total for both is under your maximum coverage per accident, or $50,000. But you’ll still need to pay anything over $25,000 for the driver’s injuries.

    How to understand bodily injury limits

    It’s important to understand that those two numbers, which in our example are 25/50, indicate the maximum limit of your coverage. Once you go over those maximum per-person and per-accident limits, you are responsible for any costs that result from the accident.

    So let’s go back to our example from above. With two persons injured, your total claim for medical expenses is $35,000, with you paying $10,000 that is over your per person limit. What happens if there’s a lawsuit or lost wages involved? You’ve already reached your limit of coverage for the driver’s injuries, so you’d have nothing left to cover any additional costs. If the passenger files the lawsuit, however, there would be the possibility of $15,000 to cover it.

    How much bodily injury liability insurance is required?

    Most states in the U.S. (the exceptions are Florida, New Hampshire, and Virginia) require you to carry a minimum amount of BIL coverage. You cannot drive legally unless you have it. But that doesn’t mean you should stop there. If you can afford it, consider purchasing higher limits of bodily injury liability insurance to financially protect you in the event of a serious accident.

    Minimum bodily liability insurance requirements by state

    StateMinimum bodily liability per person/per accident (in thousands of $)
    FloridaNA or 10/20*
    New HampshireNA or 25/50*
    New Jersey15/30
    New Mexico25/50
    New York25/50
    North Carolina30/60
    North Dakota25/50
    Rhode Island25/50
    South Carolina25/50
    South Dakota25/50
    VirginiaNA or 30/60*
    West Virginia25/50

    *In these states, bodily injury liability is not required, but if you do opt in, these are the minimum state requirements.

    How much bodily injury liability insurance should you have?

    Although you need to have at least the minimum amount of BIL insurance that your state requires, it may be a good idea to have more. Medical care can be expensive, as are legal fees if there should be a lawsuit following your accident. You might find yourself responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in the event of a serious accident.

    Let’s look at another example: You’re in an accident and are determined to be 50 percent at fault. The driver of the other car has a broken back and other injuries requiring surgery. Her medical costs mount up quickly, totaling $200,000. You have, wisely, purchased as much BIL insurance as you could afford, a total of 100/300.

    Since you’re 50 percent at fault, your share of the medical fees would be $100,000, or half of what her total is. Because you had a robust policy with a high per-person bodily injury coverage, you would be able to rely on your insurance to cover all the costs.

    How much does bodily injury liability car insurance cost?

    There are many factors that go into your insurance premium, so your costs are unique to you. Your age, gender, marital status, location and type of car may all play a role in determining your premium, depending on your state. The average cost of auto insurance in the U.S. is $1,555 annually for full coverage, which also includes collision and comprehensive insurance, but your specific rate will vary.

    (Video) What Is Auto Liability Coverage? | Allstate Insurance

    According to the Insurance Information Institute, the national average for bodily and property liability coverage is $650.35. This is based on 2019 data, the latest available. Your own rates will probably differ.

    To determine your rate for bodily injury liability insurance, it’s best to get several estimates from different insurers and to ask for prices at different rates of BIL coverage. You might ask, for example, for one quote with the BIL set at 25/50 and another with it set at 100/300. You may be surprised by how little it costs to go with the higher amount.

    How to file a bodily injury liability claim

    Filing a bodily injury liability claim is the first step in what can be a complex and time-consuming process. You may not know for sure what the total medical costs will be for several months, and it may be some time after the accident before you know if there will be a lawsuit.

    • Your first step is to determine whose insurance company — yours or the other driver’s — should receive the bodily injury claim.
    • Contact your insurer as soon as possible after the accident, even if fault hasn’t been determined. Through a process called subrogation, your own company can manage the claim even if it’s the other driver’s company that will pay.
    • If you’ve been hurt, have a friend or family member make the call. The key point is to alert your insurer that you’ve had an accident that will require a claim as soon as possible.
    • Your insurer will assign an adjuster to your case. He or she will gather details, review the police report and talk to the other driver’s insurer.
    • For complex accidents, there may be a waiting period. You might get a check fairly quickly for the damage to your car (if you have collision coverage) but BIL may take more time because medical claims need to wait until all bills have been received, including follow-up care. Your adjuster should keep you informed on how the claim is going.
    • Once the injured party has submitted all their medical claims, and the question of a possible lawsuit has been determined, they will receive a check covering their costs, up to the maximum amount that you’ve got coverage for. You will be responsible for anything in excess of that if you are at fault in the accident.

    The takeaway

    • Bodily injury liability pays for medical costs, legal costs and funeral costs for the other driver, passengers and pedestrians in an at-fault accident.
    • Almost every state has a minimum bodily injury liability coverage required to drive legally.
    • Filing a bodily injury claim may take time to resolve, since all bills must be submitted.

    You may wonder, does bodily injury cover me in an accident? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Bodily injury coverage is designed to pay for the costs that the other driver, their passengers and any pedestrians incur in an accident where you are at fault.

    Mary Van Keuren

    After 30 years as a writer and editor in academia, Mary now writes full-time for the insurance and finance industries. Her work has appeared on, and, as well as other consumer-focused websites.

    Tags - insurance

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    Which of the following would not be covered under bodily injury? ›

    Bodily injury liability insurance pays for injuries you cause to another driver if you are at fault in the accident. It includes medical bills as well as lost wages and even funeral costs if applicable. Bodily injury does not cover the medical costs of injuries you may get in the accident.

    What's the best bodily injury coverage? ›

    The best liability coverage for most drivers is 100/300/100, which is $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident in bodily injury liability and $100,000 per accident in property damage liability. You want to have full protection if you cause a significant amount of damage in an at-fault accident.

    What is bodily injury liability? ›

    What is Bodily Injury Liability? If you are responsible for a car accident, bodily injury liability coverage pays for the medical costs of the people who are injured (not including yourself). This coverage also helps cover payment for legal defense in the event you are sued for damages.

    Under which type of coverage does the insurer agree to pay for bodily injury? ›

    Liability Coverage is for accidents that are your fault. Bodily injury liability pays for bodily injury you cause someone else. Property damage liability pays for property damage you cause someone else.

    What happens if my car is totaled and I only have liability insurance? ›

    If your car is totaled and you only have liability insurance, you will have to pay to replace the vehicle yourself or file a claim with the other driver's insurance company. Liability coverage alone does not protect your car in any way, just injuries and damage you may cause to others.

    What does bodily injury exclude? ›

    Bodily injury or physical damage that an insured is liable for due to an assumption of liability in a contract is excluded. If you enter a contract accepting liability for something you wouldn't otherwise be liable for, your insurance will not cover the cost of that liability.

    What is the lowest bodily injury coverage? ›

    Liability for Bodily Injury – The minimum coverage for bodily injury varies by state and may be as low as $10,000 per person or $20,000 per accident. Many auto policies stop at a maximum of $300,000 or $500,000 per accident for Liability coverage.

    What are limits of liability insurance? ›

    Liability limits are the maximum dollar amount of damages (“indemnity”) an insurance carrier will pay on your behalf. Limits are broken down into two categories: the per claim limit and the aggregate limit.

    Do you have to pay excess if accident is your fault? ›

    claim excess. In the eyes of most insurance companies, it doesn't matter to them whether an accident was your fault or wasn't your fault; they will still require an excess payment if you choose to make a claim.

    What is the difference between liability and bodily injury? ›

    To break it down a bit more, Liability coverage is made up of two parts: Bodily Injury and Property Damage. Bodily Injury coverage is what pays for any injuries to others from the accident. This includes everything from medical expenses—like doctor visits and physical therapy—to lost wages.

    Is personal liability the same as bodily injury? ›

    Bodily injury typically refers to a type of liability insurance coverage that can protect you if you injure someone else in an accident, whereas personal injury refers to a type of civil action against the party responsible for your damages.

    What are examples of liability coverage? ›

    Liability coverage pays for both property damage you caused to another's property, as well as any bodily injury caused to others as a result of the accident.
    What Does Liability Car Insurance Cover?
    • Hospital and medical bills.
    • Lost wages.
    • Pain and suffering.
    • Rehabilitation services.
    • In-home healthcare services.

    What to do after a car accident not your fault? ›

    If the accident wasn't your fault, you can use a credit hire company instead of making a claim through your insurance company. A credit hire company pays for the cost of you hiring a replacement vehicle while yours is being fixed, and pays for the cost of repairs.

    What does liability insurance protect the insured against? ›

    Liability insurance coverage protects you financially if you're responsible for someone else's injuries or property damage. Liability coverage comes standard with most vehicle and property insurance policies, including auto and homeowners insurance.

    How do you find the actual cash value of a car? ›

    Actual cash value (ACV)

    It is determined by the replacement cost of your vehicle minus depreciation, which considers things like age and wear and tear. Most insurance policies cover the actual cash value of your car in the event of a claim and will use a third party to determine the ACV of your vehicle.

    Can I sue someone for totaling my car? ›

    You Could Sue Someone for Totaling Your Car

    You should not have to pay for someone else's carelessness or mistake. If another caused the crash that totaled your vehicle, you could file a claim with their insurer or file a lawsuit and sue them personally for damages.

    How long does it take for insurance to payout total loss? ›

    Total loss claim – this means your car isn't repairable (also known as a write-off). At this point, your insurer will agree a settlement figure with you which is likely to be agreed within 30 days, once your insurer has assessed the car and agreed it is a write off.

    Which of the following may be included in the definition of serious bodily injury? ›

    (46) "Serious bodily injury" means bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

    Which of the following is awarded for pain and suffering and loss of income? ›

    These are called compensatory damages – damages that attempt to compensate for actual loss suffered, to the extent possible. This broad category includes damages for pain and suffering, loss of income, costs of medical care or other expenses you have had to pay out of pocket, etc.

    What types of claims are not covered under general liability insurance? ›

    For some, you'll need different types of coverage to give your business more protection. A general liability insurance policy won't help your business with: Commercial auto accidents that you or your employees cause while driving for work. A commercial auto insurance policy can help you cover the cost of damages.

    What are examples of bodily injury? ›

    Bodily injury refers to specific kinds of harm done to the body after an incident, such as bruises, burns, cuts, fractured bones, and nerve damage. When someone carries bodily injury insurance, it covers the costs of the other person involved in the accident.

    Which of the following are not covered under insurance? ›

    Cosmetic surgeries like Botox, Liposuction, implants and similar surgeries are excluded from a health insurance policy. You can check with your insurer if you plan to undergo any such surgery during the policy term.

    What type of losses is not covered by the personal injury protection? ›

    Key Things to Know About Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

    PIP covers medical expenses, funeral expenses, lost income, childcare expenses, survivors' loss benefits, and household services. PIP does not cover vehicle damage, property damage, or injuries sustained by people outside your car.

    Which of the following is not covered in personal accident? ›

    Injuries from a civil or foreign war: If the burns, broken bones, permanent partial disability, permanent total disability, dismemberment, temporary partial disability, temporary total disability, death, hospitalization, etc.


    1. What Is Bodily Injury Liability Insurance? | The Hartford
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    2. Bodily Injury Liability Coverage (Auto Insurance)
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