What is Bodily Injury Liability Insurance?

Bodily injury liability insurance provides coverage for damages to injured people as a direct result of an auto accident. Bodily injury car insurance covers medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of wages, and is often required by state law. Different auto insurance companies offer various bodily liability coverage amounts, so it's best to shop around for the right policy for you. Start shopping for bodily injury liability auto insurance today with our free quote comparison tool below.

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Tonya Sisler has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of South Carolina in Journalism and has worked for 15+ years in management. She has also completed a proofreading certification and is currently a professional writer.

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Brad Larson has been in the insurance industry for more than a dozen years. He started out as a claims adjuster for a national carrier. He has since switched to the agency side of the business. Brad is licensed in all P&C lines.

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Reviewed by Brad Larsen
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Nov 17, 2020

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Bodily injury liability insurance will cover a driver if he causes an accident that injures another person. It also covers legal costs that may arise because of causing an accident. Medical costs happen to be the #1 one cause for filing bankruptcy in the nation and just the legal bills from a car accident could force some drivers into bankruptcy if an injured party to an accident sues. One consolation is that bodily injury liability insurance covers the policyholder in the courtroom, regardless of who is at fault in the accident.

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Bodily liability insurance provides coverage for damages to people who are injured as a direct result of an auto accident. Most states will require a minimum of $10,000 to $15,000 of coverage per person. Bodily injury insurance covers medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of wages due to time spent in the hospital or in recovery. Resolving a bodily injury insurance claim can happen in one to two days, or could take several years. A lot depends upon the individuals who were involved in a car accident, as well as their specific injuries. Additionally, after the insurance company has offered a settlement, the injured party must sign legal documents waiving their right to any future claims for the injuries. Bodily injury insurance can be complex, and sometimes even controversial.

Medical Bills

Compensation for medical bills is a key part of bodily injury coverage. However, before anyone starts to fantasize about incurring large medical bills at the expense of some huge insurance company, it is important to note that insurance companies will not pay for the medical bills while a person is seeking treatment. An injured person needs to use his own auto insurance policy’s medical coverage to pay his bills, or rely on his health insurance or savings account to cover them. No payment comes from the insurance company until the injured person is done with all their treatments, and agrees to the settlement amount offered by the insurance company. Once this happens, the insurance company issues a check to whomever originally paid the medical expenses, in order to reimburse them.

Lost Wages

The second of part of bodily injury liability insurance is coverage for lost wages. If somebody is injured in an accident, due to no fault of their own, they can be compensated for missed days at work because of injuries from the accident. Just as payment for medical costs though, the compensation for lost wages is not paid out until the claim is settled. Additionally, the injured party must have his employer document the number of days missed on the job, along with his current pay rate. A doctor must also provide validation that the injured person was unable to work during his injury treatment. If an injured person cannot provide either of these types of support, the insurance company will deny his claim for lost wages.

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering is the most intangible and controversial part of bodily injury liability insurance. Pain and suffering represents the mental anguish and physical pain an individual had to go through because of injuries inflicted by someone else who caused the car accident. This may vary among people, since some are much more sensitive to pain and emotional trauma than others. Additionally, older persons or people who already have a chronic illness or injury to deal with may be more susceptible to injury, or have a harder time recovering than a young, healthy person.

Settlement Amount

Some people may fake injury or exaggerate certain things, such as a pulled or strained muscle. This makes the job of a bodily injury claims adjuster difficult, since it is hard to quantify exactly what value a person’s pain and suffering has from a monetary perspective. Insurance fraud from padded injury claims is also quite common. The claims adjuster will use guidelines for the average amount of compensation paid for a given type of injury, then adjust the number based on other data such as the victim’s age, pre-existing injuries and force of the impact in the accident. This is the process commonly used to resolve claims, although it is certainly not foolproof.

A common myth about bodily injury insurance is that settlements usually equal about three times the total cost of the medical bills. The truth is, claims are resolved by the insurance company in a process that evaluates each case on its own. The potential payments for medical bills, pain and suffering and loss of wages are added together into a lump sum, then adjusted based on the victim’s age and other factors. There is no one-size-fits-all formula, since each victim and his situation is entirely unique.

Hiring an Attorney

Whether to hire an attorney is an important consideration for anyone who has been the victim of an auto accident that is not her fault. An attorney acts as a representative for the injured person, and has much more experience and knowledge when it comes to dealing with insurance companies and getting a bodily injury claim settled. However, attorneys are not always the best solution, since their fee is usually one third of the total settlement. If the person’s injuries are fairly minor and the costs are not very large, a person may have been able to negotiate the same amount or possibly a little bit more by negotiating on their own. The best time to hire an attorney is when a person has sustained serious injuries, and the treatment and recovery period will last for a long time.

How much Bodily Injury Liability Insurance should I buy?

Different insurance companies offer a variety of bodily liability insurance coverage amounts. Some offer as much is $100,000 or more per person per claim, and up to $500,000 for all persons insured under one claim.

It is wise to purchase as much bodily injury coverage as a person can afford. Any additional costs for insurance coverage will be more than offset by the avoidance of potentially huge medical and legal costs if an auto accident happens. Bodily insurance liability premiums may be one of the best investments a person ever makes.

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