What Is Auto Insurance Bodily Injury Coverage?

Bodily injury coverage explained in less than 4 minutes

A bicyclist holds his helmeted head while sitting in the street after being hit by a car. The driver of the car runs toward him.
Photo:

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Definition

Auto insurance bodily injury coverage, also known as bodily injury liability coverage, pays the medical care costs, lost wages, and even the funeral costs for anyone harmed by an at-fault driver.

Definition of Auto Insurance Bodily Injury Coverage

Auto insurance bodily injury coverage, also known as bodily injury liability insurance, pays the medical costs, lost wages, and even the funeral costs for anyone harmed by an at-fault driver. This is important coverage because these costs can be quite high; there’s no limit to the cost of an injured person’s medical care. However, insurers will pay only up to the limit specified on a policy, after which the at-fault driver is on the hook for any additional costs. Auto insurance bodily injury coverage may also cover your legal fees if the injured person decides to sue you.

The policyholder and any family members listed on the policy are generally covered by bodily injury liability coverage, no matter what vehicle they are driving, provided they have permission to be behind the wheel. 

Note

Remember that bodily injury coverage does not pay for the medical and other costs of the at-fault driver and it may not cover passengers. Those expenses would be covered by health insurance and potentially by medical payments or personal injury protection coverage.

  • Alternate name: bodily injury liability

How Auto Insurance Bodily Injury Coverage Works

Auto insurers often sell bodily injury coverage in terms of its maximum payouts. Policies will often list two numbers that refer to the thousands of dollars the insurer will pay toward bodily injury coverage per person and per accident, respectively. For instance, “25/50” refers to payment caps of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.

For example, say you have 25/50 bodily injury coverage and cause an accident that injures every member of a family of four. Your insurance will pay up to $25,000 per person to cover medical costs, lost wages, and other associated costs. But if each of the four injured people has $25,000 worth of medical costs, your insurance will still pay out only a maximum of $50,000 for this accident—which means you’ll be on the hook to pay the remaining $50,000.

Do I Need Auto Insurance Bodily Injury Coverage?

Every state except New Hampshire and Florida requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of bodily liability insurance or pay a fee (as well as property liability, which is often listed as a third number). For example, Virginia requires drivers to either buy bodily injury coverage or pay a $500 Uninsured Motor Vehicle Fee.

Even if you live in a state that does not require bodily injury liability coverage, you’ll still be considered financially responsible if you cause an accident that injures other people. Carrying bodily injury liability coverage will often be an easier and cheaper option than paying out of pocket, even for residents of states that don’t require coverage. 

Additionally, since state car insurance minimums tend to be somewhat low, it often makes sense to purchase additional liability coverage so that a bad accident does not leave you financially vulnerable. 

How to Get Auto Insurance Bodily Injury Coverage

Bodily injury liability coverage is a basic part of any auto insurance policy. However, you’ll need to consider how much coverage to buy and determine which insurer to purchase your coverage from.

You can start by getting quotes from multiple insurers. You’ll need to provide some basic information about yourself, your driving history, your vehicle, who else the policy will cover, and how the vehicle will be used. You can request car insurance quotes for state-mandated minimum bodily injury coverage, as well as quotes for higher levels of coverage. Adjusting your deductible is one way to help make higher levels of coverage more affordable.

Key Takeaways

  • Auto insurance bodily injury coverage pays the medical costs, lost wages, legal costs, and potentially funeral costs for individuals harmed in an accident for which you are at fault.
  • Bodily injury coverage is generally listed as two numbers, such as 25/50, which refer to the amount of money in thousands of dollars that the insurer will pay per person and per accident.
  • Every state except New Hampshire and Florida requires drivers to carry minimum bodily injury liability coverage.
  • Purchasing more than the state minimum for bodily injury coverage can protect you against the financial fallout of a bad accident.
  • You can compare costs for bodily injury coverage by getting quotes from multiple auto insurance providers.
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Sources
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "A Shopping Tool for Automobile Insurance," Page 4. Accessed Jan. 3, 2022.

  2. Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. "Florida Insurance Requirements." Accessed Jan. 3, 2022.

  3. State of New Hampshire Insurance Department. "Your Guide to Understanding Auto Insurance in the Granite State," Page 1. Accessed Jan. 3, 2022.

  4. Virginia DMV. "Uninsured Motor Vehicle Fee." Accessed Jan. 3, 2022.

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