What is Bodily Injury Liability in Car Insurance?
A regular part of car insurance and the auto insurance law is bodily injury liability 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 auto 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 bodily injury liability insurance, we’ll cover everything that bodily injury insurance covers, bodily injury liability’s place in basic car insurance, how much bodily injury liability you should buy, filing a bodily injury claim, and of course, the cost of bodily injury liability coverage.
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 auto insurance 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 auto accident. This is a practice of basic car insurance policies with the minimum amount of car insurance 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 you are driving uninsured 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 bodily injury liability 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 auto insurance coverage every driver that registers within them must carry.
Here are Bodily Injury Coverage types composing Car Insurance Coverage:
- Bodily injury per person - This type of bodily injury insurance provides liability insurance coverage for one person involved in an auto accident you caused. Bodily injury per person is typically when the driver is the only person in the car.
- Bodily injury per accident - This type of bodily injury insurance provides bodily injury liability coverage for everyone involved in an auto accident you caused. Bodily injury per accident is typically when the car you hit has passengers present.
- Property damage - Property Damage Liability is a separate type of car insurance that covers any damage you caused to another driver’s car or any property around the scene of the car accident. This includes repairs and maintenance resulting from the auto 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 bodily injury liability functions and what bodily injury insurance covers specifically.
In the event of an auto accident, the other car driver will file a bodily injury insurance claim against your auto insurance provider since it is they who will receive the bodily injury liability insurance payout rather than yourself, as a bodily injury liability policyholder.
From there, the vehicle driver you injured will receive personal injury compensation for their:
- Hospital bills - Treatment and care for personal injuries after an auto 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 car 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 auto driver decides to sue you for damages, any legal aid and legal fees will be covered by the bodily injury insurance. This is when you would have to file a car insurance claim for yourself as the policyholder to receive an auto insurance payout.
- Funeral expenses - If someone is killed in the vehicle 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 of bodily injury liability and property damage liability they require from their vehicle drivers.
Going back to the coverages of basic car insurance, we’ve laid out what each auto insurance 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 bodily injury liability and property damage liability 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 car insurance coverage amount.
These auto insurance coverage amounts are based on the car insurance coverage averages. Any state may have a different car insurance coverage amount.
An example would be California’s requirement of 15/30/5 of car insurance coverage amount compared to Illinois’ requirement of 25/50/20 of auto insurance coverage amount. Of course, these aren’t the exact car insurance coverage amounts you should carry.
A smart driver carries car insurance coverage equal to their net worth rather than what the car insurance coverage minimums are. This is because, while these auto insurance coverage 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 a Personal Injury?
The body injury claim filing is done by the affected car driver against the at-fault auto driver’s insurance company. This is what’s known as a “third-party bodily injury claim.”
The bodily injury liability claims process is something that requires a lot of documentation and recordings of the event. Any records like medical treatment after the vehicle accident should also be kept close and tangible.
Here’s what you should have before starting the bodily injury liability claims process:
- Detailed and accurate accounting of what happened.
- Photo or video documentation of the auto accident scene.
- Medical records or bills following the vehicle accident.
- Receipts of any services because of the car accident.
- Proof of lost work wages from absent days after the auto accident occurred.
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 bodily injury liability payout for it. The bodily injury 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 bodily injury liability and property damage liability claim successfully:
- Reach out to the at-fault driver’s car 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 auto 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 vehicle accident in detail and provide any documentation to the car insurance adjuster agent handling your case. They will be the ones you will have to present everything to.
- You will be able to collect your bodily injury liability and property damage liability payout after a period of time. You may also be offered a settlement if you don’t choose to sue the other vehicle’s driver. You have the choice to do either.
- Sign the release form stating that you agree not to pursue the other car driver in court or anywhere else before accepting the bodily injury liability and property damage liability payout.
How Much Does a Bodily Injury Claim And Bodily Injury Liability Coverage Cost?
Here, we discuss the cost of not only the bodily injury liability insurance itself but also how much a bodily injury and property damage 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 bodily injury liability claim 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 car insurance premium is directly proportional to how much bodily injury coverage you carry and the car insurance deductible amount you choose.
Let’s say that you carry $15,000 in bodily injury per person and $30,000 in bodily injury per accident in bodily injury liability coverage. Your monthly auto insurance premium would be around $56. Your car insurance premium would be $532 annually.
Let’s compare this auto insurance premium to your car insurance 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 car insurance premium of $89 for an annual auto insurance rate of $560. Your property damage coverage may add about $20 to your auto insurance total in any case.
How is Fault Determined After an Auto Accident?
In any case of a traffic accident, establishing which car driver is at fault is the first order of business. From there, you’re able to work out the car insurance 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 of the car accident while others don’t even use the fault system.
Here are a couple of ways fault is determined or defined after an auto accident:
- Comparative negligence - This is an example when auto drivers share the fault of the car 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 - Car drivers won’t receive an auto insurance payout if they were more than 51% responsible for the auto accident. This would mean if both drivers were equally at fault, then they would both be reimbursed for expenses following the car accident. 33 states practice modified comparative negligence.
- Contributory negligence - Drivers found to even be minorly at fault will not receive a car insurance payout from the other driver’s auto 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 car insurance will cover their auto damages regardless if they were at fault or not. Drivers in these states are typically required to carry personal injury protection or PIP insurance to cover themselves.
What Are Other Types of Injury Liability Coverage That Covers Bodily Injury?
Speaking of personal injury protection or PIP insurance now is the perfect time to bring up different types of injury liability insurance that can cover you after an auto accident regardless of the driver at fault. That is exactly what personal injury protection is, especially in states where carrying personal injury protection or PIP insurance is required.
Another type of car insurance coverage drivers use to increase their liability limits is an umbrella insurance policy. These auto insurance policies are usually bought in order to cover remaining costs leftover from a standard car 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 auto 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 car accident.
What Are Other 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 bodily injury which requires a lot of treatment. You’ll also only have to pay them for their services if your bodily injury liability 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 the insurance company will cover it.
But above all, always remember to document everything with photos or videos. These will serve as your evidence for the car insurance adjuster agent and a court of law if it is taken there.
Successfully receiving car 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 car insurance claims.