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Bodily Injury and Property Damage Liability Coverage

Liability Car Insurance

Car insurance is there to protect us when the unthinkable happens. And when our own actions on the road result in an accident, that protection becomes even more vital.

Most states require drivers to purchase a minimum amount of liability coverage to protect them from financial disaster after an accident.

"Liability" means "responsibility," and it refers to two different types of financial responsibility in an accident:

  • Bodily injury – Damage done to people.
  • Property damage – Damage done to vehicles or other property.

Bodily Injury Liability Insurance Coverage

Bodily injury liability coverage, sometimes referred to as “bodily injury insurance," can protect you financially when you are at fault in an accident that results in physical injury to other people.

Whether it's minor bumps and bruises, serious injuries, or even death, you (the at-fault driver) will carry the burden of paying the costs related to those injuries/deaths.

What Will It Cover?

Bodily injury coverage can help pay for medical expenses and funeral costs to somebody who is hurt in an accident you cause. It is important to note that bodily injury coverage does not pay for your own injuries.

Additionally, bodily injury coverage can help pay for:

  • Long-term nursing care.
  • Lost income from time off work.
  • Pain and suffering.
    • This is an amount determined by a court to address the emotional or physical stress the accident or injuries caused.

There are exceptions to every rule, and this goes for your liability coverage as well. For example, if you cause damage to another person or their property intentionally, your liability insurance will not cover the damage.

Be sure to check your policy carefully so you know the specifics on what is and is not covered after an accident.

Buying Bodily Injury Liability Insurance

All major car insurance carriers offer bodily injury liability coverage, even in states where it is not required by law. Shop around to find the coverage that best suits your needs.

When you purchase your car insurance, you may notice that your policy includes 2 different numbers associated with bodily injury. For example, you'll likely see it written something like $15,000/$30,000.

This is because liability car insurance always includes 2 different bodily injury limits:

  • Limit per person – The maximum amount your insurance will pay out for bodily injury to a single person in a car accident.
  • Limit per accident – The total maximum amount your insurance will pay out for bodily injury if multiple people are hurt in a car accident.

A good rule of thumb for many buyers is to purchase the highest bodily injury liability coverage limit they can afford.

If your coverage isn't sufficient to pay for all injury-related costs in an accident you caused, you are susceptible to lawsuits for the remainder of the money, putting your assets (such as your home) at risk.

Property Damage Liability Insurance Coverage

Property damage liability insurance covers the cost of damages to someone else's property after an accident you cause.

Most commonly, your property damage will pay out when you are at fault for an accident that causes damage to someone else's car. However, property damage will cover other property types as well.

What Property Damage Coverage Covers

Property damage liability insurance takes effect when your vehicle is involved in an accident and found at least partially at fault for causing damage to another person's property.

Exactly what your liability insurance covers varies according to your policy and amount of coverage, so read the contract carefully or ask your insurance agent.

Typically, property damage liability insurance covers repair and/or replacement of:

  • Damaged vehicles.
  • Damaged personal property, such as a house, a fence, or a lamppost.

What If My Car Gets Damaged?

Property damage liability coverage does not pay for damages you cause to your own vehicle or personal property.

To ensure you'll be able to pay for damage to your own property, consider getting collision and/or comprehensive coverage.

Buying Property Damage Liability Insurance

The importance of property damage cannot be overstated. It's safe to say that you're probably going to cause at least some damage if you get into any accident. This will leave you having to pay the costs if you are at least partially at fault. As with bodily injury, your home and other assets can be put at risk in lawsuits involving property damage.

When you look at a liability insurance policy, you'll typically see it written as such:


The first 2 numbers represent the bodily injury coverage amounts. The 3rd number represents property damage liability coverage.

Property damage is not split into “per person" and “per accident" like bodily injury. It covers a maximum amount per accident.

A basic liability insurance policy will include property damage liability. Make sure you understand your state's requirements for car insurance and comparison-shop for the best liability insurance policy.

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