Q

What is bodily injury liability insurance?

A

Part of what is generally referred to as liability coverage, bodily injury liability insurance pays for injuries you cause to another person in an at-fault accident.

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By 

Rachael Brennan

Rachael Brennan

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Rachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

Published February 16, 2022 | 4 min read

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We all know that cars can cause a lot of damage, but we don’t often think about what that really means. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 2.74 million people were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2019. [1]   And it is more than just injuries — about 38,680 people died in traffic accidents in 2020.  [2]

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Your bodily injury liability coverage is the part of your car insurance that will pay out if you cause an accident that injures or kills someone. It may seem expensive or unnecessary, but what happens if you hit someone who has three kids riding in the back seat, or worse, what if you hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk? Having enough bodily injury liability insurance is vital to protecting yourself and others in an accident.

Key takeaways

  • Bodily injury liability is the part of your car insurance that pays for the other driver’s injuries and medical expenses when you are at fault in an accident.

  • Bodily injury liability insurance covers their medical expenses, funeral costs, legal fees, and compensation for lost wages.

  • “No-fault” states require drivers to have personal injury protection (PIP) to pay for their own medical expenses after an accident.

  • If you want to have enough coverage to protect yourself in the event of a serious accident, your best bet is to buy a minimum of $100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident in bodily injury coverage.

What is bodily injury liability insurance?

Bodily injury liability coverage (sometimes shortened to BIL) is the part of your car insurance that pays for the other driver’s injuries and medical expenses when you are at fault in an accident. 

It protects you financially by paying for hospital bills and other necessary medical care for other people so you don’t have to pay those expenses out of pocket. For example, if you hit another car on the highway and the driver is injured, their medical bills will be paid by your bodily injury liability insurance, up to the limits in your policy.

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What does bodily injury liability insurance cover?

Bodily injury liability insurance covers injuries to the other driver or their passengers after a car accident. That can include:

  • Medical expenses: If you cause an accident, bodily injury liability is what pays for the victims’ emergency medical care, hospitalization, and other medical expenses like follow-up visits with their doctor or durable medical equipment (crutches, a wheelchair, etc.) that are necessary.

  • Funeral costs: If you cause an accident that results in someone’s death, your bodily injury liability coverage will likely pay for associated funeral costs.

  • Compensation for lost wages and other income: If someone needs significant medical care, like physical therapy or multiple operations, because of the accident, it is possible they may not be able to return to work immediately. Depending on the laws in your state, if the person you injured can’t work because of the injuries they sustained in the accident, your bodily injury liability coverage could help pay for their lost wages.

  • Legal fees: If the injured person (or their insurance company) takes you to court over the cost of damages, your bodily injury liability coverage could help pay your legal fees.

Do I need bodily injury liability coverage in a no-fault state?

Some states have no-fault laws regarding auto insurance, which means drivers are required to have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to pay for their own medical expenses after an accident. That means that after an accident, each driver uses their own coverage to pay for their injuries, no matter who was at fault.

Some no-fault states have very low bodily injury liability requirements, while others don’t require drivers to have bodily injury liability insurance at all.

Even if your state doesn’t require you to have bodily injury liability insurance, it is still a good idea to purchase the coverage. If you cause more damage than is covered by the other driver’s PIP coverage, you will still be held liable for their medical costs.

Bodily injury liability coverage requirements by state

How much bodily injury liability coverage you need to have (according to the law) varies from one state to the next. As you can see in the chart below, each state sets their own liability requirements.

StateBodily injury liability per personBodily injury liability per accidentProperty damage liability per accident
Alabama$25,000$50,000$25,000
Alaska$50,000$100,000$25,000
Arizona$25,000$50,000$15,000
Arkansas$25,000$50,000$25,000
California$15,000$30,000$5,000
Colorado$25,000$50,000$15,000
Connecticut$25,000$50,000$25,000
Delaware$25,000$50,000$10,000
District of Columbia$25,000$50,000$10,000
FloridaOptional, unless otherwise specified by the stateOptional, unless otherwise specified by the state$10,000
Georgia$25,000$50,000$25,000
Hawaii$20,000$40,000$10,000
Idaho$25,000$50,000$15,000
Illinois$25,000$50,000$20,000
Indiana$25,000$50,000$25,000
Iowa$20,000$40,000$15,000
Kansas$25,000$50,000$25,000
Kentucky$25,000$50,000$10,000
Louisiana$15,000$30,000$25,000
Maine$50,000$100,000$25,000
Maryland$30,000$60,000$15,000
Massachusetts$20,000$40,000$5,000
Michigan$50,000$100,000$10,000
Minnesota$30,000$60,000$10,000
Mississippi$25,000$50,000$25,000
Missouri$25,000$50,000$10,000
Montana$25,000$50,000$10,000
Nebraska$25,000$50,000$25,000
Nevada$25,000$50,000$20,000
New Hampshire*Optional; or $25,000Optional; or $50,000Optional; or $25,000
New Jersey$15,000$30,000$5,000
New Mexico$25,000$50,000$10,000
New York$25,000$50,000$10,000
North Carolina$30,000$60,000$25,000
North Dakota$25,000$50,000$25,000
Ohio$25,000$50,000$25,000
Oklahoma$25,000$50,000$25,000
Oregon$25,000$50,000$20,000
Pennsylvania$15,000$30,000$5,000
Rhode Island$25,000$50,000$25,000
South Carolina$25,000$50,000$25,000
South Dakota$25,000$50,000$25,000
Tennessee$25,000$50,000$15,000
Texas$30,000$60,000$25,000
Utah$25,000$65,000$15,000
Vermont$25,000$50,000$10,000
Virginia**Optional; or $25,000Optional; or $50,000Optional; or $20,000
Washington$25,000$50,000$10,000
West Virginia$25,000$50,000$25,000
Wisconsin$25,000$50,000$10,000
Wyoming$25,000$50,000$20,000

Three states don’t have a required amount of bodily injury liability insurance: Florida, New Hampshire, and Virginia

New Hampshire and Virginia do not mandate liability insurance, instead allowing drivers to guarantee they will be responsible for any costs associated with an at-fault accident. But drivers in those states who choose to buy car insurance have required minimum levels of insurance.

Florida requires drivers to buy PIP coverage and, because of that, does not mandate a minimum amount of bodily injury liability insurance for drivers in the state, although drivers are still required to have property damage liability coverage.

How much bodily injury liability insurance do I need?

Legally speaking, you are only required to buy as much bodily injury liability insurance as the state requires. However, the vast majority of people would be better off buying as much liability coverage as they can afford. 

If you want to have enough coverage to protect yourself in the event of a serious accident, your best bet is to buy a minimum of $100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident in bodily injury coverage.

As you can see in the chart below, having the state minimum levels of insurance is much cheaper than having full coverage with high levels of liability coverage. However, the difference between a policy with 50/100 bodily injury liability coverage and one with 100/300 levels of coverage is only $101 per year. 

It costs relatively little to increase your liability levels, and drivers who have an older vehicle they can afford to replace out-of-pocket can choose to buy liability only coverage at very high levels, saving them hundreds of dollars each year over full coverage insurance.

Coverage levelAverage annual premium
Full with 100/300 BI$1,822
Full with 50/100 BI$1,721
State Minimum$621

Frequently asked questions

How much bodily injury liability insurance do I need to have by law?

By law, you need to have at least the required minimum levels of bodily injury insurance in your state. This is usually not enough to cover damages in a serious accident, however, so it is important to buy as much liability insurance as you can afford.

How is bodily injury liability different from property damage liability?

Liability insurance is broken into two parts: bodily injury liability insurance and property damage liability. Bodily injury is exactly what it sounds like — it pays for injuries when you are at fault in an accident. Property damage liability only pays for damage you cause to other people’s property and cannot be used for medical expenses.

What happens if I don’t have enough bodily injury liability insurance?

You will be held liable for any damage you cause in an at-fault accident. If you injure someone (or multiple people) in a car accident you will be held accountable for all of the related expenses, even those that go beyond your insurance limits, which means if you choose to buy low levels of car insurance you may still have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars out-of-pocket to cover that damage.

Methodology

Policygenius has analyzed car insurance rates provided by Quadrant Information Services for every ZIP code in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. 

For full coverage policies, the following coverage limits were used:

  • Bodily injury liability: 50/100 or 100/300, as indicated in the article

  • Property damage liability: $50,000

  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist: 50/100

  • Comprehensive: $500 deductible

  • Collision: $500 deductible

In some cases, additional coverages were added where required by the state or insurer.

Rates for overall average rate, rates by ZIP code, and cheapest companies determined using averages for single drivers age 30, 35, and 45. Our sample vehicle was a 2017 Toyota Camry LE driven 10,000 miles per year.

Rates for driving violations and “poor” credit were determined using average rates for a single male 30-year-old driver with a credit score under 578.

Some carriers may be represented by affiliates or subsidiaries. Rates provided are a sample of insurance costs. Your actual quotes may differ.