Updated October 31, 2019

Bodily Injury Liability

How much bodily injury liability should you have? And what does it cover? Find out how much coverage you need to protect against expensive car accident claims.

What Is Bodily Injury Liability?

Bodily injury liability (BI) covers costs associated with injuries to other people in an auto accident for which you are found legally responsible. It is sometimes referred to as "third-party" insurance since it covers other drivers and passengers, but not you.

This coverage can also provide a legal defense in the event the other person sues you for damages. It is required by law in most states.

BI can insure against a number of expenses associated with causing an accident, particularly if there are injuries. Generally, it covers:

Medical Expenses
These include emergency room and hospital care costs, necessary follow-up doctor visits, and other medical costs like the purchase of a wheelchair or other required medical equipment.

Legal Fees
If your accident results in injuries, you may sued by the other party or their insurance company. If you must seek legal counsel to assist you, this coverage may help cover the cost.

Loss of Income
If you cause an accident and the other driver is injured to the extent they cannot perform the normal functions of their job, bodily injury liability will compensate for lost wages.

Pain and Suffering
This may be a result of a court order. The other party may claim repayment for lingering pain or emotional distress from the accident or as a result of their injuries.

Funeral Costs
If someone passes away as a result of the accident, this coverage can help pay for their funeral costs.

How Much Bodily Injury Liability Should I Have?

Most states require minimum BI liability coverage limits (more on these below). But you can—and probably should—get higher levels of coverage.

To estimate how much coverage you need:

  1. Add the total value of your assets, including your home, car, savings, and investments

  2. Subtract any debt you have.

This calculates your net worth. Your total bodily injury limits should at least match this amount.

Typically, you will see BI coverage listed at two numbers: The first is a per-person limit, and the second is a per-accident limit.

If your coverage is $50,000/$100,000 (sometimes listed as 50/100):

  • The first number ($50,000) represents the coverage limit for damages if only one person is injured in an accident. You would be covered for damages up to this dollar amount. If the damages exceed that amount, you are responsible for covering what remains out of your pocket.

  • The second number ($100,000) is the coverage limit for the total amount of damages if more than one person is injured. As with the first number, you would be covered for damages up to this amount and if damages exceed that amount, you must cover the remaining out of your pocket.

Because you must pay out of pocket for damages exceeding your coverage amount, you may want to consider coverage higher than the state minimum.

Keep reading to learn how much bodily injury liability will cost.

What Does Bodily Injury Liability Cost?

This chart helps illustrate the cost difference between the minimum required coverage and the coverage experts recommend. In most cases, it's small enough to make more coverage worthwhile.

StateMin. Coverage Per
Person / Incident
Est. Annual Cost: Min.Est. Annual Cost: 100/300/100
Alabama$25,000 / $50,000$508$679
Alaska$50,000 / $100,000$436$530
Arizona$15,000 / $30,000$513$761
Arkansas$25,000 / $50,000$501$649
California$15,000 / $30,000$573$802
Colorado$25,000 / $50,000$521$726
Connecticut$25,000 / $50,000$643$901
Delaware$25,000 / $50,000$846$1,156
Florida$0 / 0 (no state minimum requirement)N / AN / A
Georgia$25,000 / $50,000$548$718
Hawaii$20,000 / $40,000$510$676
Idaho$25,000 / $50,000$325$427
Illinois$25,000 / $50,000$422$547
Indiana$25,000 / $50,000$425$527
Iowa$20,000 / $40,000$313$388
Kansas$25,000 / $50,000$429$522
Kentucky$25,000 / $50,000$975$1,292
Louisiana$15,000 / $30,000$971$1,711
Maine$50,000 / $100,000$416$473
Maryland$30,000 / $60,000$627$755
Massachusetts$20,000 / $40,000$484$716
Michigan$20,000 / $40,000$1,368$1,488
Minnesota$30,000 / $60,000$472$544
Mississippi$25,000 / $50,000$603$816
Missouri$25,000 / $50,000$432$581
Montana$25,000 / $50,000$381$528
Nebraska$25,000 / $50,000$406$500
Nevada$25,000 / $50,000$722$1,240
New Hampshire$25,000 / $50,000$492$617
New Jersey$15,000 / $30,000$881$1,184
New Mexico$25,000 / $50,000$488$672
New York$25,000 / $50,000$887$1,092
North Carolina$30,000 / $60,000$351$460
North Dakota$25,000 / $50,000$345$397
Ohio$25,000 / $50,000$429$512
Oklahoma$25,000 / $50,000$531$747
Oregon$25,000 / $50,000$639$769
Pennsylvania$15,000 / $30,000$500$692
Rhode Island$25,000 / $50,000$920$1,186
South Carolina$25,000 / $50,000$596$788
South Dakota$25,000 / $50,000$281$348
Tennessee$25,000 / $50,000$408$530
Texas$30,000 / $60,000$782$951
Utah$25,000 / $65,000$502$649
Vermont$25,000 / $50,000$329$415
Virginia$25,000 / $50,000$376$482
Washington$25,000 / $50,000$607$758
West Virginia$25,000 / $50,000$484$669
Wisconsin$25,000 / $50,000$364$469
Wyoming$25,000 / $50,000$305$372

Auto insurance premiums are dependent on a variety of factors, including your age, the age and type of vehicle you have, where you live, your driving record, and more. Depending on these factors, your premiums can range significantly.

Do I Really Need Bodily Injury Liability Coverage?

Unless you live in Florida, you are legally required to have at least the state minimum BI liability coverage. No matter where you live, carrying more than the state minimum coverage can protect you.

Let's say you live in a state where you have the minimum coverage: $25,000/$50,000. You are legally responsible for an accident and one person is injured.

Between their medical bills, legal fees, and income loss replacement, you are required to pay $35,000. Your insurance will only cover you for $25,000—the remaining $10,000 will have to come out of your pocket.

Now imagine multiple people were injured in that accident. The total costs for which you are responsible total $80,000. Your insurance company will only pay $50,000, leaving you with a $30,000 bill.

Keep in mind that if you choose not to carry bodily injury coverage in Florida, you are still responsible for all costs associated with the injuries of others in an accident. The insurance company won't pay anything.

In 2017, the average bodily injury claim was $15,270, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

How Do I File a Bodily Injury Claim?

If you were not responsible for an accident but experienced injuries, you will file a claim against the at-fault driver's insurance. If you were at fault, they will file against yours.

These are often called "third-party claims." To ensure a reasonable amount of your expenses are paid for by the other person's insurance, you must provide documentation and records from the accident.

For example, you may need to provide:

  • Record of what happened

  • Photos of the scene, vehicles, and injuries you sustained

  • Doctor or hospital records of medical examinations and any bills from health care providers

  • Receipts of all related expenses, such as legal fees or medical equipment

  • Proof of lost wages if your injuries require you to miss work and potential income

If you are in an accident, contact your insurance company as soon as possible. They will help you file against the offending party's insurance company.

Don't wait to do this—there are sometimes time limits on filing and if you miss the time limit, your claim may be denied.

What to Expect After Making a Claim

After you make a claim, you will hear back in a set time frame determined by your state and policy. Be prepared to discuss the incident with either insurance company, or a liability claim examiner or adjuster to provide clarification of the injuries and the cost of the claim.

Keep in mind you may be required to accept a settlement within a set time frame, so work with your insurance agent or an attorney to meet any deadlines.

Following a settlement, you will be asked to sign a release form to waive all future rights to pursue the person and company for further payments. Before you do this, talk with your attorney or agent to review the settlement. Be sure to account any future medical bills or expenses that might arise.

If your claim exceeds the at-fault driver's coverage, you can sue the driver and may have to go to court. There, a judge and/or jury may award you more than the policy limits.

What if There Is a Bodily Injury Claim Against Me?

One of the first steps you should take is to hire an attorney, especially if you think the other driver is faking injury or their claim is fraudulent.

In most cases, if you have insurance and the other driver makes a claim, an insurance adjuster handling your case will take care of the matter. This person will investigate all aspects of the accident and determine how the company will handle it.

If your coverage limit is more than the claim, your insurance company will pay the claim and you won't have to do anything. If it's less than the claim, you will be contacted and should likely hire an attorney to help you understand your options and navigate any asset seizure.

If you're in an accident and don't have insurance, you and/or an attorney must investigate and defend against possible injury claims.

Any time you are in an accident, whether you are at fault or not, you should report it to your insurance company. That way, they have your side of the story in the event the other driver makes a claim.

Make sure you never say anything that could be interpreted as admitting fault. Even if your case goes to court, you are still covered, and your insurance company should handle everything. However, you may see an increase in your monthly premium.

Other Types of Coverages

Your auto insurance is comprised of different coverages to fully protect you in the event of an accident. Many states have state minimum requirements for these coverages.

Check your state's DMV or talk to an insurance agent to ensure you have the insurance you need.

Liability Coverage
This coverage, which includes bodily injury liability, pays for damages or injuries in an accident you cause. The other main type of liability coverages is property damage.

It pays to repair (or replace) damage to others' vehicles, valuables, or property. Property damage liability even extends to things like lamp posts or fire hydrants.

Liability coverage is usually displayed in two or three numbers. The third number is for property damage liability. For example, you may see a policy has 100/250/50, which covers:
  • $100,000 for injuries per person
  • $250,000 for injuries total per accident
  • $50,000 for property damage per accident

Personal Protection Insurance (PIP)
This pays for lost wages and treatment of injuries to you or your passengers in an accident. In some states, PIP will pay out before liability coverage kicks in.

Medical Payments
This covers you or your passengers' injuries in an accident, no matter who was at fault. It does not pay for lost wages. Limits are usually low ($10,000 or less).

Uninsured And Underinsured Motorist
This coverage pays out when another driver causes an accident and doesn't have insurance or has insufficient liability coverage for you and your passengers' injuries or damages.

This pays to repair your car after an accident you cause. If your car is totaled, it will pay your car's estimated value.

This covers theft and damages from either vandalism or nature, like hail damage or a tree falling on your vehicle.

Collision and Comprehensive are usually optional unless you have an auto loan or lease that requires the coverage.

Bottom Line

Even though a minimum limit is required by most states, it's smart to have more bodily injury liability coverage to ensure you and your assets are protected.

If you cause an accident, you can be responsible for paying for injuries to the others involved. If you don't have enough coverage, you may have to pay out of pocket.

Work with your insurance agent to determine how much bodily injury coverage you need to protect your interests.

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