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What Is Bodily Injury Liability Insurance Coverage?

Christy Bieber
Kristi Waterworth
By: Christy Bieber and Kristi Waterworth

Our Insurance Experts

Ashley Maready
Check IconFact Checked Ashley Maready
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Drivers are expected to have several types of car insurance. Bodily injury coverage is one type of coverage that most states require by law. It provides payment if the policyholder causes a crash and injures others. Learn more here about how bodily injury coverage works.

What is bodily injury coverage?

Bodily injury coverage is a type of auto insurance policy drivers generally must buy. The purpose of this car insurance is to protect the covered driver's assets if he causes a crash. It is also to make sure accident victims receive compensation from the at-fault driver.

This coverage does not pay for injuries the policyholder sustains. Instead, bodily injury coverage pays for claims against the policyholder if he causes an accident and hurts others.

What does bodily injury liability car insurance cover?

Bodily injury liability car insurance covers the costs an accident victim incurs when a policyholder causes a crash.

It typically pays for medical bills and lost wages sustained by a victim of a collision the insured driver was responsible for. It also pays for the victim's pain and suffering. And it can cover legal defense fees when a covered driver is sued by victims after causing a crash. If a crash victim is killed, it can also pay for funeral expenses and lost wages.

What is not covered by bodily injury liability?

Bodily injury liability does not pay for any losses the policyholder personally experienced due to injury in a crash. It will not pay for the policyholder's medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, or property damage, regardless of who caused the collision.

It also does not pay for the victim's property damage if the policyholder caused an accident. Separate property damage liability insurance is required for that.

And bodily injury coverage will not pay for damages in excess of the policy limits, regardless of how much harm the policyholder actually caused.

Who is covered under bodily injury liability car insurance?

Bodily injury liability car insurance can pay for almost anyone injured in a collision the policyholder caused. This can include other drivers. It can also include pedestrians.

Passengers in the policyholder's car may also be covered by bodily injury liability insurance. However, some insurers exclude coverage for immediate family such as a spouse. If a motorist caused a crash and a friend was in the car, the friend could pursue a claim that would be covered under bodily injury liability coverage. But if the covered driver's wife was a passenger, bodily injury coverage often would not pay for a claim the wife made against her husband. Supplementary spousal coverage can be purchased to protect against loss in this situation.

How much bodily injury coverage is required?

How much car insurance you need to buy varies by state. In many states, the minimum bodily injury liability coverage is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident in coverage.

This means if a driver caused a crash and injured three people, each person could receive up to $25,000 in compensation. But the combined total paid out for the accident would be $50,000.

Some states have higher or lower limits. It is important to check with local authorities to determine minimum coverage required. The best car insurance companies will walk you through your policy documents so you understand exactly what kind of coverages you have in place.

Per-person bodily injury liability limit

The per-person bodily injury limit refers to how much the insurer will pay out to each individual accident victim. The required amount of per-person coverage could be as low as $15,000 or as high as $50,000 in states that mandate drivers buy bodily injury coverage.

Per-accident bodily injury liability limit

The per-accident limit refers to the total amount the insurer will pay per accident. It applies regardless of how many people were hurt.

If a driver has $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident in coverage and three crash victims each sustain $20,000 in damages, the $50,000 limit would cap how much the insurer would repay to $50,000. The coverage would be insufficient to pay out the total amount of losses.

How much bodily injury liability coverage should you have?

Drivers must buy enough coverage to comply with their state's minimum bodily injury coverage requirements. But it is a good idea to buy more. That's because injuries resulting from an accident can be very expensive. Most experts recommend a minimum of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident in coverage. People with substantial assets may want to buy more protection.

How much does bodily injury coverage cost?

Bodily injury coverage costs vary by state, by driving record, and by how much insurance coverage is purchased.

How to file a bodily injury liability car insurance claim

Bodily injury liability covers accident victims harmed by the policyholder. As a result, it is other people, not the policyholder, who must file this type of claim. This is called a third party claim. There are specific steps that must be taken to file a claim under bodily injury coverage.

Report the accident to the police

It is important to have a record of the accident. A police report can document who was at fault and how the crash occurred. This is essential to prove that the at-fault driver's insurer should pay compensation to crash victims under the bodily injury liability policy.

Gather information

Taking photos at the scene and obtaining the names of witnesses is also important. This information can help to prove who was at fault -- and thus whose insurer should pay. This evidence obtained at the scene can also help to provide proof of the severity of the crash. This is important when negotiating compensation for injuries.

Seek medical help

An at-fault driver's insurer will pay compensation only for bodily injuries caused by the accident. These injuries must be documented.

It is best to see a medical professional as soon as possible after the collision. A doctor can create a record of the nature and severity of the injuries, and the cause. This can be used as evidence when requesting compensation from the at-fault driver's insurer.

Alert the insurance companies

Crash victims will be making their bodily injury claim with the insurer of the person who caused the collision. As a result, it is important to obtain their insurance information.

However, depending on state rules and the nature of the accident, victims should typically report the claim to their own insurer as well. Their insurer can help them negotiate compensation with the at-fault driver's insurance company.

If the at-fault driver doesn't have enough insurance, crash victims may also need to get compensated through their uninsured or underinsured coverage. This would be different from a bodily injury liability claim.

Consider hiring an attorney

An attorney can provide assistance in filing a bodily injury claim against the at-fault driver's insurer. This may be important to negotiate the largest possible settlement. Hiring an attorney is especially advisable when injuries are serious and victims may be entitled to significant compensation.

File a claim

Victims will need to provide information to the insurer of the at-fault driver. Typically, once the crash has been reported to the insurer, an adjuster will reach out to take statements, obtain paperwork, and collect evidence.

Negotiate a settlement

The at-fault driver's insurer will offer a settlement if they accept fault for the accident. This could be for an amount up to policy limits.

The settlement amount will be determined by the nature and severity of the injuries and the severity of the crash. If a victim believes they are being offered a fair amount of compensation under bodily injury coverage, they can sign a settlement agreement. They will usually receive a lump-sum payment after agreeing to settle.

Once a settlement agreement is signed, no further claims for compensation can be made from the at-fault driver's bodily injury coverage.

Sometimes, crash victims may wish to pursue a lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident. This could potentially result in greater compensation than the victim would receive by accepting a settlement offer.

The driver who caused the crash can expect to see their insurance rates increase after an accident. This is especially true if it is a serious collision that results in a lawsuit and a large payout.

Crash victims must remember, however, that an insurer will not pay out compensation above the bodily injury coverage limits. That's true regardless of how much they are awarded as a result of a lawsuit. They can pursue a claim directly against the at-fault driver for any compensation exceeding policy limits. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to collect.

Bodily injury liability vs. property damage liability coverage

Bodily injury coverage is sometimes called personal injury coverage. That's because it pays for costs related to injuries the policyholder causes to accident victims. However, property can also be damaged in a crash. As a result, many states also require property damage liability coverage in addition to bodily injury liability coverage.

There is a separate policy limit for property damage liability coverage. For example, a state may require $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident in bodily injury liability and an additional $25,000 in property damage coverage. This rule is described as requiring 25/50/25 coverage.

Property damage liability pays only for damage the policyholder causes to other people's property. If the policyholder is in an accident and his own vehicle is damaged, property damage liability will not provide compensation. For a policyholder's own property to be covered by his insurance policy, he would need collision and comprehensive coverage.


  • Drivers should get enough bodily injury coverage to comply with state laws and protect assets. Many states require a minimum of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident in coverage. It is a good idea to get more protection than the minimum to avoid being held personally responsible for losses above policy limits. Typically, coverage of around $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident is advisable. But people with substantial assets may want more.

  • Personal injury protection (PIP) pays for the policyholder's minor injuries in the event of an accident. PIP pays for medical bills and partial lost wages for the policyholder regardless of who caused the crash. It is required in some states, called "no-fault" states.

    Bodily injury does not pay for the policyholder's injuries. It covers claims made against the policyholder if the policyholder causes an accident that hurts others. It can pay for legal representation for a policyholder, as well as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering for accident victims.

  • Bodily injury liability pays for claims against a covered policyholder that are made by victims of an accident the policyholder caused. A victim hurt in a crash can make a claim for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Bodily injury liability can pay for these accident-related damages, up to policy limits.

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