In nearly every state, vehicle owners are required to carry a minimum amount of car insurance in order to drive legally.A minimum liability car insurance policy usually includes bodily injury liability insurance.
If you injure someone in a car accident, bodily injury liability coverage will help you to pay for their medical costs, but not your own. In most cases, it will also cover any lost wages if the other driver, passengers, or pedestrians can’t work after an accident.
Bodily injury liability coverage could also pay the costs of a lawsuit if you injure someone in an accident. For this reason, having enough bodily injury liability coverage in place is absolutely essential.
If your coverage limits are too low, your insurance policy may not cover the full amount of money that you need to pay for the accident.
Read on, because in this article, we uncover everything you need to know about bodily injury liability insurance.
What Does Bodily Injury Liability Insurance Cover?
Bodily injury liability will cover a portion of the short and long-term costs related to injuries that other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bystanders may suffer due to an accident that you’re the cause of.
Here are some examples of what bodily injury liability insurance covers:
Bodily injury coverage will pay for medical bills such as hospital fees and emergency care that are associated with the accident. In some cases, it will also cover follow-up visits and medical equipment costs, such as crutches or braces.
After an accident, the other party may file a lawsuit against you. Bodily injury coverage pays for your legal defense fees and can help you avoid the high court costs typically associated with a case.
Loss of income
If anyone else in the accident suffers an injury that prevents them from being able to work, bodily injury insurance will compensate them for the time that they are in recovery.
Pain and suffering
Should anyone else who was injured in the accident experience enduring pain and suffering as a result of the crash, bodily injury insurance will pay toward the cost of any rehabilitation that is required.
In the event of any fatalities caused by the accident, bodily injury liability insurance will help to pay for the funeral costs of the other party.
What Does Bodily Injury Liability Coverage Not Pay For?
Although bodily injury liability coverage will take care of a variety of expenses, there are some things that it will not pay for. For example:
Medical bills of you and your passengers
If you and your passengers live in the same household, bodily injury liability coverage will not pay any of your medical expenses. For this, you will need medical payments or personal injury protection coverage.
Damage to another driver’s vehicle
To cover any damages that the other driver’s car sustained during the accident, you will need to have property damage liability coverage in place. In most states, this coverage is usually required with a minimum liability insurance policy.
Damage to your own vehicle
Bodily injury liability insurance will not provide any coverage for your vehicle’s repairs. For this, you would need to have collision and comprehensive coverage in place.
How Does Bodily Injury Liability Insurance Work?
Liability insurance policies tend to come with two coverage limits. These include a combined single limit which covers the total medical expenses per accident, as well as a split limit, which covers the medical expenses of each individual person.
In the case of a combined single-limit policy, you will receive a certain dollar amount of coverage, which is divided between bodily injury liability coverage and property damage liability coverage. The amount paid out will be based on what happened in the accident.
With a split-limit policy, your insurer will determine how much it will pay for each coverage type ahead of time. For example, these policies are usually written as 25,000/50,000/20,000 or in short—25/50/20.
The first number is the coverage limit per person. This is the maximum amount that your insurance provider will pay toward covering injury expenses for each person involved in the accident.
The second number is the limit per accident. This is the maximum amount that your insurance company will pay toward covering the injury expenses of all individuals involved in the accident.
The third number relates to your property damage limit.
Key Point: What Is a Property Damage Limit?
The property damage portion of your liability insurance coverage pays for the damage to other cars and property that you cause in an at-fault car accident.
Here is an example of what may happen if your auto insurance policy has a split limit of 25/50/20 and you cause an accident, injuring three other people:
In this split limit coverage, your per person coverage would equal $25,000, while the per accident coverage would equal $50,000.
- Person one’s medical expenses: $10,000.
- Person two’s medical expenses: $26,000.
- Person three’s medical expenses: $15,000.
Bodily injury liability would pay for all of person one’s and person three’s expenses, as well as $25,000 toward person two’s expenses. This is because you have a $25,000 per person limit on your coverage.
You would therefore need to pay $1,000 out of pocket for person two’s costs—which is the amount that is in excess of both your per-person and per-accident limit.
How Much Coverage for Bodily Injury Liability Do You Need?
Most states in the U.S. typically require drivers to carry a minimum amount of bodily injury and property damage liability coverage.
Here are the bodily injury liability coverage requirements by state:
|State||Minimum Liability Coverage Per Person||Minimum Liability Coverage Per Accident|
|Florida||Not Required||Not Required|
|New Hampshire||Not Required||Not Required|
There is an exception to the rule of state required minimum liability insurance. There are a few states that will allow drivers to ‘self insure’ by proving that they would be able to pay any expenses that may result from an accident that they caused.
This can involve posting a bond or depositing a large sum of money into a state bank account.
New Hampshire is an example of a state where drivers are not required to carry minimum liability coverage. The only requirement is that drivers have a significant amount of money available should they be involved in an accident.
If a New Hampshire driver does opt for insurance instead, they will need to meet the state’s bodily injury liability limits.
Are Each State’s Bodily Injury Liability Limits Enough?
Although most states require you to have a minimum amount of bodily injury liability insurance in place, that does not mean that the minimum coverage limits are enough if you cause an accident.
Financial experts recommend that you carry at least $100,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person, and $300,000 in coverage per accident.
Most car insurance companies will allow you to increase your coverage to these limits.
To ensure that you have maximum financial protection, you can also consider buying a personal umbrella liability insurance policy.
Umbrella insurance will kick in when you reach your car insurance liability coverage limits.
For example, if you cause an accident and the other driver and his or her passengers sustain injuries that total $350,000 in medical expenses, but you only have $300,000 in bodily injury liability coverage, your umbrella policy will cover the additional $50,000.
Although umbrella policies start at $1 million in coverage, they are also one of the cheaper insurance policies that you can buy.
How Do You File a Bodily Injury Liability Coverage Claim?
If you are not the at-fault driver and you need to file a bodily injury liability claim, this is usually a straightforward process. Complications will only arise if you were at-fault in the accident.
There are a few steps and safeguards that you will need to be aware of.
1. Appoint a lawyer
Having an attorney to represent you when you file a bodily injury liability claim can make the whole process a lot easier.
This is especially true if you sustained a serious injury. An attorney will help you with the documentation and the claim settlement.
Most personal injury attorneys will work on a contingency basis, which means that they will only be paid if your claim is successful.
2. Keep all medical documentation
For your bodily injury claim to be successful, you will need to prove that you suffered all the injuries that you’ve listed and received treatment for them.
Everything from your medical bills to the doctor’s report and test results will help you prove the validity of your claim.
3. File the claim
Depending on your state and the circumstances of your accident, you will either need to file the claim with your own insurance company, or with that of the other driver.
After filing your claim, you will be contacted by an insurance adjuster. This person will take all the evidence that you have provided, and come back to you with a settlement offer.
When you file a bodily injury liability claim, be prepared to submit the following information:
- A detailed description of the incident.
- Photos of the accident scene and any injuries that you sustained.
- Medical records.
- Receipts related to all your medical expenses.
- Proof of any lost wages.
4. Review and sign the settlement
Once the insurance adjuster has come back to you with a settlement offer, you should ask your attorney to look it over before you go ahead and sign it.
When reviewing the settlement, also consider any future expenses that may arise as a result of your injuries.
If the offer is to your satisfaction, then you will need to sign the settlement; this will mean that you can’t pursue any further payment from the insurance company or the other party.
If your claim is denied, the insurance company will need to provide you with a specific reason.
If you feel that your claim was wrongfully denied, or if your settlement offer is not what you expected, you will need to consult with your attorney to begin legal proceedings.
When Can You File a Bodily Injury Claim
Unlike property damage claims, a bodily injury claim is usually a fairly complicated process, as it depends on where you live and who caused the accident.
If you are at-fault in the accident
If you sustain any injuries in an accident that you’ve caused, then your bodily injury liability insurance will not cover any of your medical costs.
Instead, you will need personal injury protection, or MedPay coverage. Both these coverages will pay your medical expenses after an accident, regardless of who is at fault.
If you don’t have personal injury protection or MedPay, you will need to rely on your regular health insurance to cover your medical costs.
If the other driver is at fault
In cases where the other driver is at fault in an accident, their bodily injury liability insurance will cover your medical expenses.
However, if the driver is uninsured or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your costs, then you will need to file a claim under your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
If you were partially at fault
When you share responsibility for an accident with another driver, your ability to be reimbursed for your medical expenses will depend on your state’s laws regarding negligence.
There are three types of negligence laws and each state subscribes to one of these:
Comparative negligence states
The other driver will cover your medical costs depending on their level of responsibility for the accident. For example, if the accident was 75% their fault, then their insurance company will pay up to 75% of your medical expenses.
Modified comparative negligence states
You may not recoup any expenses from the other driver if you were more than 51% at fault for the accident.
Contributory negligence states
If you bear any responsibility for the car accident, you will not have your expenses covered by the other driver’s insurance.
If you live in a no-fault state
No-fault states will require you to carry personal injury protection coverage in order to prevent smaller claims from going to court, while ensuring drivers are reimbursed quickly.
In other words, if you live in a no-fault state, you will file a bodily injury claim with your own insurer, rather than with the other driver’s insurance company.
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