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bodily injury and property damage

key liability coverages on your car insurance policy

These are 2 of the most important aspects of your car insurance policy. Bodily injury (BI) and property damage (PD) liability coverage can help pay for the medical expenses and damaged property you're responsible for after an at-fault accident. And if you're sued for further damages, BI and PD can help cover your legal defense.

Quick coverage facts

  • Pays for others' injuries and property repairs after an at-fault accident
  • The limits you select can raise or lower your premium
  • Legally required in most states

Bodily injury liability coverage (for people)

After you're found at fault in a car accident, your bodily injury liability coverage (BI) can help pay accident-related medical expenses for other drivers and passengers. It covers an injured third party's medical fees, lost wages due to missed work, and accident-related pain and suffering. BI can also help pay your legal defense fees if the injured party decides to sue for further damages.

Is bodily injury coverage required?

In most states, BI is mandatory for licensed drivers who own cars.

Even no-fault states require drivers to have BI on their policies. While personal injury protection (PIP) coverage can pay for the medical care of each driver regardless of fault, each state that requires this coverage has a certain verbal or monetary threshold that, when crossed, allows an injured party to sue for damages. If this happens, BI can help as it would in any other state.

Property damage liability coverage (for things)

Now we'll walk you through the ins and outs of liability's other half — property damage coverage — and explain how the right amount of protection can help mend those metaphorical (and literal) fences.

What property damage (PD) liability coverage entails

Property damage coverage can help pay for other drivers' and property owners' expenses after you're found at fault in an accident. This includes repairing damaged cars or fixing any other property involved, including a fence, house, or porcelain lawn gnome. PD can also help mitigate out-of-pocket legal fees associated with damaged property.

PD, in general, can provide a lot of protection for a modest cost.

What it doesn't cover is your own car, your garden gnome, or any other property you own. To financially protect these, consider comprehensive and collision coverage (and homeowners or renters insurance for the gnome).

The limitations of the minimum limits

Talking about minimum limits is inherently confusing because we really mean the minimum amount of maximum coverage that's legally required. Every state (except New Hampshire) has a 3-tiered system for their minimum liability coverage limits, a figure such as 25/50/25:

  • The first number (25) is the amount in thousands the at-fault driver's insurer will pay for injury-related expenses per person
  • The second number (50) is the total amount in thousands the insurer will pay for injury-related expenses per accident
  • The third number (25) is the amount in thousands the insurer will pay for property damage per accident

When purchasing your liability coverage, you're only obligated to meet your state's minimum limit requirements, which vary depending on the state. But the minimum limits may not provide the level of protection you need.

BI limits and the option to split limits

The conventional rule with BI is the same as with any insurance coverage: get as much as you can comfortably afford. After all, a $15,000 per-person limit could cover X-rays and pain medication, but what if a driver or passenger needs surgery and misses weeks of work? Because medical expenses and lost wages can add up quickly, that $15,000 limit might not be enough.

If you do opt for higher-than-required limits and you get in an at-fault accident that causes injuries to another person, you'll appreciate the enhanced protection higher limits can provide.

PD limits

Let's say, for instance, you're a Texan who settles for the minimum liability limits of 30/60/25, which gives you only $25,000 in property damage protection. If you happen to ding your neighbor's new Bentley or knock a chunk off his newly remodeled kitchen, your property damage coverage may not go as far as you'd like. If the damage is $50,000, you'd be responsible for the other $25,000 out-of-pocket.

Combined single limit

In some states, you have the option of choosing a combined single limit rather than 3 separate limits. The single limit refers to the total amount, per accident, that your liability coverage can pay for medical expenses and property repair or replacement.

How to find the BI and PD liability limits that suit you best

Depending on your situation, the slight cost increase for higher car insurance limits can be well worth the peace of mind they provide.

If you need help figuring out what your limits should be, try our Coverage Counselor® or give us a call anytime at 1-800-ESURANCE (1-800-378-7262).

Related links

Liability requirements in your state
Browse through our state fact sheets to find out how much (if any) liability coverage your state requires.

Comprehensive and collision coverage
Find out about the 2 main coverages designed to help repair (or replace) your car.

Medical payments coverage
Unlike liability, this coverage can help pay for your medical expenses after a crash.

Find out whether high deductibles are right for you
Get the pros and cons behind high car insurance deductibles.

see what you could save on car insurance

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