A regular part of car insurance and the law is bodily injury coverage. Nearly every driver has a legal responsibility to pay for injuries they cause in a car accident. That’s why basic car insurance is often required. Bodily injury coverage is included in said insurance. Injuring another person can result in more than just medical expenses. Having bodily injury coverage gives you peace of mind that you won’t have to shell out tons of money during the entire time it takes for the injured person to recover and return to work. In this comprehensive guide to bodily injury claims and insurance, we’ll cover everything that bodily injury insurance covers, its place in basic car insurance, how much you should buy, filing a claim, and of course, the cost.
What is The Importance of Car Insurance And Bodily Injury Coverage?
As previously mentioned, the legal responsibility to pay for damages is the importance of car insurance and what basic coverage entails. In most states, when you are at fault or have caused a car accident with another driver, you are required to pay for their medical bills and any other costs accumulated from the accident. This is a practice of basic car insurance policies with the minimum amount of coverage. Driving uninsured can result in significant penalties like fines and even jail time. The very least that your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles will do when they find out is suspend your driver’s license as well. That should stress the importance of carrying car insurance.
What is The Role of Bodily Injury Coverage in Basic Car Insurance?
Before diving into the specifics of what bodily injury coverage includes, let’s talk about how it functions within auto insurance. Car insurance isn’t a federal mandate but rather a state one. Every state has its own car insurance requirements for how much coverage every driver that registers within them must carry.
This is composed of the following coverage types, which includes two instances of bodily injury:
- Bodily injury per person - This type of bodily injury insurance provides coverage for one person involved in an accident you caused. This is typically when the driver is the only person in the car.
- Bodily injury per accident - This type of bodily injury insurance provides coverage for everyone involved in an accident you caused. This is typically when the car you hit has passengers present.
- Property damage - This is a separate type of insurance that covers any damage you caused to another driver’s car or any property around the scene of the accident. This includes repairs and maintenance resulting from the accident.
What Does Bodily Injury Insurance Cover?
Now that you’re familiar with how bodily injury coverage ties into car insurance, let’s talk about how it functions and what it covers specifically. In the event of an accident, the other driver will file a claim against your insurance provider since it is they who will receive the payout rather than yourself.
From there, the driver you injured will receive compensation for their:
- Hospital bills - Treatment and care for injuries after an accident is what bodily injury insurance foremostly covers. This can range from hospital care to any follow-up treatments down the road.
- Lost wages - There may be injuries that cause a driver to miss work for a period of time until they recover. Bodily injury coverage helps pick up the wages from lost days at work for them.
- Legal fees - If the other driver decides to sue you for damages, any legal aid and fees will be covered by the bodily injury insurance. This is when you would have to file a claim for yourself to receive a payout.
- Funeral expenses - If someone is killed in the accident, the bodily injury insurance would also cover the cost of the funeral and service.
How Much Bodily Injury Coverage Must You Carry?
The answer to this question depends on the state you live in because they all have their own minimum amounts they require from their drivers. Going back to the coverages of basic car insurance, we’ve laid out what each coverage must at least be in an easy-to-understand three-number phrase, “25/50/20.”
Each of these numbers represents one of the three types of basic car insurance coverage -bodily injury per person, bodily injury per accident, and property damage, respectively. The numbers themselves represent the minimum amount of money that coverage should entail. So, for bodily injury per person, it’s at least $25,000. Bodily injury per accident must be at least $50,000. And so forth with property damage with at least $20,000 in the coverage amount.
These amounts are based on the averages. Any state may have a different amount. An example would be California’s requirement of 15/30/5 compared to Illinois’ requirement of 25/50/20. Of course, these aren’t the exact amounts you should carry. A smart driver carries insurance coverage equal to their net worth rather than what the minimums are. This is because, while these amounts are at least required, they are often not enough to fully cover a normal auto accident case.
How do You File a Bodily Injury Claim After an Injury?
The body injury claim filing is done by the affected driver against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. This is what’s known as a “third-party claim.” The claims process is something that requires a lot of documentation and recordings of the event. Any records like medical treatment after the accident should also be kept close and tangible.
Here’s what you should have before starting the claims process:
- Detailed and accurate accounting of what happened.
- Photo or video documentation of the scene.
- Medical records or bills following the accident.
- Receipts of any services because of the accident.
- Proof of lost work wages from absent days.
It’s important to note that you should immediately get medical attention if you need it. You’ll need records that show you received such treatment and must receive a payout for it. The claim process should be started when you have the bills and the amount you are owed calculated after it is done.
Now comes the process for making a claim successfully:
- Reach out to the at-fault driver’s insurance company with the information they provided you with and inform them you wish to file a bodily injury and property damage claim. You may have to leave a message.
- The insurance company follows up with you after a certain time frame; it shouldn’t be too long though sometimes it depends.
- Now, talk about the accident in detail and provide any documentation to the insurance adjuster handling your case. They will be the ones you will have to present everything to.
- You will be able to collect your payout after a period of time. You may also be offered a settlement if you don’t choose to sue. You have the choice to do either.
- Sign the release form stating that you agree not to pursue the other driver in court or anywhere else before accepting the payout.
How Much Does a Bodily Injury Claim And Coverage Cost?
Here, we discuss the cost of not only the insurance itself but also how much a claim would cost you. Note that a bodily injury claim is more expensive than a property damage claim.
To get a feel for how much a bodily injury claim is, here are some averages from previous years:
- 2015 - $16,046
- 2016 - $16,149
- 2017 - $16,075
- 2018 - $17,164
- 2019 - $18,417
The good news is that basic car insurance and the bodily injury coverage it includes can be affordable and sometimes low-cost. For the most part, the premium is directly proportional to how much bodily injury coverage you carry. Let’s say that you carry $15,000 in bodily injury per person and $30,000 in bodily injury per accident in coverage. Your monthly premium would be around $56. This would be $532 annually. Let’s compare this to your rates when your bodily injury per person coverage is $25,000 and bodily injury per accident is $50,000. You would be paying a monthly premium of $89 for an annual rate of $560. Your property damage coverage may add about $20 to your total in any case.
How is Fault Determined After an Accident?
In any case of a traffic accident, establishing which driver is at fault is the first order of business. From there, you’re able to work out the claims process with the insurance company of the at-fault driver. However, that may not always be the case because some states employ different laws and practices against negligent driving. Some states make drivers share the fault while others don’t even use the fault system.
Here’s a couple of ways fault is determined or defined after an accident:
- Comparative negligence - This is an example when drivers share the fault of the accident, but not entirely equally. An example would be a driver being at 75% fault while the other is 25%. So, the 75% at-fault driver will cover 75% of the other driver’s medical bills while the 25% at-fault driver does the same with their corresponding percentage. 12 states practice comparative negligence.
- Modified comparative negligence - Drivers won’t receive an insurance payout if they were more than 51% responsible for the accident. This would mean if both drivers were equally at fault, then they would both be reimbursed for expenses following the accident. 33 states practice modified comparative negligence.
- Contributory negligence - Drivers found to even be minorly at fault will not receive a payout from the other driver’s insurance at all. Five states, including D.C., use the contributory negligence approach for car accidents.
- No-fault - There are a dozen states wherein the driver’s own insurance will cover their damages regardless if they were at fault or not. Drivers in these states are typically required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to cover themselves.
What Are Other Types of Injury Liability Coverage That Covers Bodily Injury?
Speaking of PIP insurance now is the perfect time to bring up different types of injury liability insurance that can cover you after an accident regardless of the driver at fault. That is exactly what personal injury protection is, especially in states where carrying it is required. Another type of coverage drivers use to increase their liability limits is an umbrella insurance policy. These policies are usually bought in order to cover remaining costs leftover from a standard insurance payout that wasn’t enough. Let’s say that you carry a bodily injury coverage limit per accident of $150,000 and get into an accident where they owe $200,000 in damages. An umbrella policy will cover the remaining $50,000, so you don’t have to. This can be extremely helpful if you get into a major accident.
More Important Things to Know About Filing a Bodily Injury Claim
The best way to close out this piece is with some more tips about making your bodily injury claim process go much smoother. The first thing you should do is hire a lawyer or legal representative. This can be especially handy if you are taken to court and must agree on a settlement or a serious injury which requires a lot of treatment. You’ll also only have to pay them for their services if your claim is approved.
Always check the legal services offered within your area because you may not have to go far. It’s also important to receive all your medical treatment at once, so you have all the documentation and bills. While doing this, be on the lookout for any unnecessary treatments you may receive. This may be the doctors taking advantage of the fact that insurance will cover it.
But above all, always remember to document everything with photos or videos. These will serve as your evidence for the insurance adjuster and a court of law if it is taken there. Successfully receiving insurance compensation for a bodily injury claim can be a complex process to navigate. A lot of times, it depends on your state and its at-fault laws. Look at your state’s regulations regarding fault today to better prepare yourself for such insurance claims.