What Is Bodily Injury Liability Coverage?

Last Updated on May 19, 2021

Bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage is mandatory in most states. If you don’t have bodily injury liability coverage, then you cannot legally drive.

Bodily injury liability coverage covers injuries you inflict on other people. If you hit a pedestrian, for example, or harm another driver during an accident, then bodily injury liability coverage covers medical bills, lost wages, and similar expenses.

What is bodily injury liability coverage? How does bodily injury liability coverage work? Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about bodily injury liability coverage, what it covers, and whether or not it’s required.

bodily injury liability coverage

How Bodily Injury Liability Coverage Works

Bodily injury liability coverage compensates other drivers for certain damages you cause. If you injure another person while driving, for example, and that person requires hospital treatment, then your bodily injury liability coverage covers that person’s medical bills up to the limits of your policy.

Because you caused the accident, you are required to cover any damage from that accident. You caused the damage, so you must pay to make the other driver ‘whole’ again.

You must also compensate the other driver for property damage after an accident. If you damage the other driver’s vehicle, for example, then you are required to pay for repair costs to that vehicle.

BIL coverage applies to anyone you injure while driving – including a pedestrian, another driver, or passengers in another vehicle. These people can make a claim through your car insurance to receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other costs.

Most states require bodily injury liability coverage by law. When you buy car insurance in most states, it includes bodily injury liability coverage.

What Does Bodily Injury Liability Coverage Cover?

Bodily injury liability coverage covers certain expenses incurred by the other driver because of your actions.

Common items covered by bodily injury liability coverage include:

Medical Bills: Medical bills are the thing most commonly covered by bodily injury liability coverage. If you injure someone with your vehicle, and that person requires medical treatment, then your insurance pays for the person’s medical bills. It can cover the person’s ambulance ride, emergency room treatment, and similar immediate medical costs. It can also compensate the person for follow-up doctor visits, ongoing therapy, and other medical care.

Lost Wages and Income: If you hit and seriously injure someone while driving, then that person may be unable to work. Your car insurance will compensate the person for lost wages or salary. The person would have earned this money if he or she were able to work, but they’re not able to earn the money because of the accident.

Legal Fees: If you were at fault for a car accident, then you may be sued by the other person. You may need to hire a lawyer to defend yourself. Your car insurance bodily injury liability coverage will cover your legal costs up to the limits of your policy.

Pain and Suffering: During a lawsuit, the court may decide that you owe the victim additional damage for pain and suffering. Bodily injury liability coverage can cover more than just physical damage; it can also cover emotional damage after an accident.

Do I Need Bodily Injury Liability Coverage?

Drivers in every state (except two) require bodily injury liability coverage.

You must have BIL coverage to legally drive in every state except New Hampshire and Florida.

New Hampshire does not technically require drivers to have any auto insurance, and drivers can choose to drive without car insurance, then pay for any damages out of pocket. If you do purchase an auto insurance policy in New Hampshire, though, you need to have at least $25,000 in coverage per person and $50,000 in coverage per accident.

Florida, meanwhile, requires drivers to have personal injury protection (PIP) and property damage liability coverage, although the state does not technically require bodily injury liability coverage.

The required amount of bodily injury liability coverage varies between states. Some states require just a few thousand dollars of coverage, for example, while others require up to $100,000 of coverage.

Drivers in California, for example, are required to have $30,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per accident, while drivers in Alaska require $100,000 per accident.

Bodily Injury Liability Coverage Limits

All car insurance policies have specific limits. Some drivers meet the bare minimum amount of bodily injury liability coverage, while other drivers exceed this amount for added protection and peace of mind.

When comparing car insurance policies, you’ll typically see three numbers. Each number refers to a different type of coverage.

A 15/30/10 policy, for example, would provide:

  • $15,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per person
  • $30,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per accident
  • $10,000 of property damage liability per accident

This policy would match the minimum insurance requirements for some states but not others. This policy matches the minimum insurance requirements for drivers in Arizona, for example, but it would be too low for drivers in Colorado.

When you buy car insurance in a state, that car insurance will match the minimum required amounts for your state. As long as you’re buying car insurance from a licensed provider in your state, your car insurance will (at least) match your state’s minimum insurance requirements.

When you drive between states, your car insurance rises to match the minimum insurance requirements for that state. As long as you have valid car insurance in one state, this car insurance should legally cover you in all other states in which you’re driving.

Below is a list of the current BIL requirements by state:

StateMinimum Required ($)StateMinimum Required ($)
Arkansas25,000/50,000New Hampshire25,000/50,000
California15,000/30,000New Jersey15,000/30,000
Colorado25,000/50,000New Mexico25,000/50,000
Connecticut25,000/50,000New York25,000/50,000
Delaware25,000/50,000North Carolina30,000/60,000
D.C.25,000/50,000North Dakota25,000/50,000
FloridaNot RequiredOhio25,000/50,000
Illinois25,000/50,000Rhode Island25,000/50,000
Indiana25,000/50,000South Carolina25,000/50,000
Iowa20,000/40,000South Dakota25,000/50,000
Michigan20,000/40,000West Virginia25,000/50,000

Per Person vs. Per Accident Coverage

Each state has specific bodily injury liability coverage requirements per person and per accident. In a serious accident, you could easily max out your coverage and hit your limits.

Your policy covers a certain amount per person. If you injure one person during a car accident, then that person can claim up to the maximum of your per person coverage. If that person has $10,000 of medical bills, for example, and you have a 15/30/10 policy with $15,000 of coverage, then your policy will cover everything.

Your policy also covers a certain amount per accident. Multiple people can make a claim on your car insurance policy from a single accident, although your insurance only covers up to your ‘per accident’ amount.

If you exceed either amount, then you are required to pay the remainder out of pocket. Even though your policy technically has $30,000 of coverage per accident, it may not cover someone with $20,000 of medical bills because you only have $15,000 of coverage per person.

Ultimately, some people maintain the bare minimum required amount of insurance, taking added risk and saving money every month. Others are willing to pay extra for added peace of mind. Some people buy up to $1 million of coverage, for example, to protect against all unexpected circumstances.

Final Word on Bodily Injury Liability Coverage

Bodily injury liability coverage is a mandatory part of car insurance in most states. It covers medical bills, lost wages, legal expenses, pain and suffering, and similar costs after an accident. If you injure a passenger, a pedestrian, or another driver while driving, then you are required to compensate that person for certain damages.

Compare car insurance policies today to decide on the right amount of bodily injury liability coverage for your unique needs and aversion to risk.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for InsurancePanda.com and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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