What is Bodily Injury Liability Car Insurance Coverage?

Learn more about this essential piece of your insurance policy.

hands cupping a blue toy car on a white table, image

Learn how bodily injury liability—an essential part of your insurance policy—protects you in case you cause an accident.

REDPIXEL.PL / Shutterstock

What is Bodily Injury Liability Car Insurance Coverage?

If you have an accident, the damage to vehicles—your own and the other person’s—could be the least of your worries. If someone’s hurt and you’re at fault, you may be responsible for hospital expenses and other medical bills. Your car insurance’s bodily injury liability coverage may help pay those expenses.

What is bodily injury liability?

Bodily injury liability coverage is part of your auto insurance policy. If you (or someone else who’s driving your car) cause an accident and people get hurt, bodily injury liability can pay for their medical expenses.

Who does bodily injury liability cover?

If you’re at fault in an accident, bodily injury insurance can cover the other drivers’ and passengers’ medical expenses. What if you hit another vehicle and the impact sends your car careening over a curb, causing you to hit a pedestrian? Your policy may cover medical expenses for the other driver and his passengers, as well as the pedestrian. It doesn’t, however, cover your own medical expenses.

The types of expenses covered by bodily injury liability may include:

  • Medical expenses such as hospital bills, emergency care costs, and rehabilitation.

  • Equipment expenses such as the cost of crutches.

  • Loss of income if someone who’s injured in the accident is unable to work.

  • Compensation for an injured person’s pain and suffering.

  • Funeral costs if there are fatalities.

  • Attorney’s fees if an injured person takes you to court.

How does bodily injury coverage work?

Liability insurance coverage typically comes with split limits, meaning there is a financial limit per person, per accident. If your insurance has coverage limits of $25,000/$50,000, for example, that policy would pay up to $25,000 in expenses for one injured person and a total of $50,000 for all injured people in a single accident. (Some insurers may also list property liability coverage—damage to another vehicle or property such as a fence or mailbox—as a third dollar amount.)

Suppose you cause an accident that injures the driver, Jill, and her passenger, Jack. Jill’s medical bill is $5,000 and Jack’s is $32,000. The policy with limits described above could pay Jill’s entire bill, but only $25,000 of Jack’s—the policy’s per-person limit—leaving you to pay the remaining $7,000. This type of coverage, called a “split limit” policy, is the most common.

A less common type of liability coverage, called “single limit,” specifies one dollar amount for an entire accident. Single limit coverage costs more but is also more flexible. There are no per-person limits, so the insurer can pay up to the policy’s dollar limit for an at-fault accident, regardless of individual people’s hospital bills.

How much bodily injury coverage do I need?

Most states require that all drivers have bodily injury liability coverage, but a handful of states set fairly low minimum limits. Medical expenses can skyrocket, so you may consider a policy with liability coverage of at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident.

AAA’s insurance experts are happy to walk you through bodily injury liability coverage and help you find an affordable policy that’s just right for you. With AAA, you get coverage backed by 100 years of auto insurance experience, stellar claims service, and perks like world-class roadside assistance.

Exceptional coverage. Expert service. Extra savings. 
AAA Auto, Home, and Life Insurance 

More Car Insurance Definitions

*The availability, qualifications, and amounts of coverages, costs and discounts may vary from state to state and there may be coverages and discounts not listed here. In addition, other terms, conditions, and exclusions not described above may apply, and total savings may vary depending on the coverages purchased. For more information regarding your eligibility for certain coverages and savings opportunities, please contact your AAA agent. Insurance products in California offered by AAA Northern California Insurance Agency. License #0175868, in Nevada by AAA Nevada and in Utah by AAA Utah. Insurance provided by CSAA Insurance Group, a AAA insurer.