What Is Bodily Injury Liability (BIL) Car Insurance? Do You Need it?

Bodily injury insurance determines how much you'll have to pay for injuries you cause in a car accident. Read this guide to learn more on BIL.
Written by Carol Chung
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
If you’re at fault in a car accident, it’s not just the vehicle damage that you need to worry about. You’re also on the hook for any costs associated with injuries suffered by others. This is where bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance comes in—it’s
car insurance
that will pay for those medical expenses and related costs.
Bodily injury liability is one of the two types of car insurance that make up
liability insurance
on a policy. The other type of liability coverage is property damage liability (PDL), which, as the name implies, pays for damage to other people’s property if you’re at fault in an accident.
You can get bodily injury liability insurance for a reasonable price by looking up car insurance quotes online, or with the car insurance broker app
. If you’re wondering what it is and whether you really need it, here’s what you should know.

What is bodily injury liability?

If you’re found to be responsible for a car accident, bodily injury liability pays for the costs associated with the injuries you’ve caused to others. It can also pay for your legal defense if someone sues you for damages.
However, bodily injury liability doesn’t cover your own injuries or those of your family. This is because bodily injury liability is a form of third-party insurance, meaning it only covers a driver or passengers in another car, bystanders, or passengers unrelated to you in your own vehicle.
You, the policyholder, are the first party; your insurance company is the second party.
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What does bodily injury liability cover?

There are five main types of costs that bodily injury liability insurance may pay for:
Medical expenses: Bodily injury liability covers the fees associated with other people’s emergency and hospital care. It may also cover follow-up appointments and medical equipment.
Legal fees: After an accident, the other people involved may take you to court. Legal fees can be substantial, but if you have bodily injury liability, it will help cover these costs.
Loss of income: If a person is hurt badly enough, their ability to work can be impeded. Maybe they require several months off from work for rehabilitation and recovery. Maybe they can no longer perform their regular duties on the job. Your bodily injury liability insurance may offer compensation for their lost wages.
Pain and suffering: Bodily injury liability may protect you if the other party wants financial compensation for any lingering physical or emotional pain after an accident.
Funeral costs: In the worst-case scenario, when someone dies in a car accident, bodily injury liability may cover funeral expenses.

Bodily injury limits

As with other forms of insurance, bodily injury liability is subject to limits. Generally speaking, this form of car insurance has two types of limits:
Limit per person: This is the maximum amount your insurance company will pay to cover each person involved in an accident. If your policy limit per person is $25,000, that’s the maximum amount your insurer will pay toward their expenses.
Limit per accident: This is the maximum amount your insurance company will pay to cover all people involved in an accident. If your limit is $50,000 and you cause an accident that injures two people, $50,000 is the maximum amount that your insurer will pay toward their combined expenses. Each injured party will still be subject to the per-person limit as well.
It’s common to see your liability coverage limits written out as a series of numbers, like 25/50/10. The first two numbers refer to your bodily injury liability limits per person and per accident. The last number refers to your property damage liability limit.
Depending on the state you reside in, you may also have the option to choose a combined single limit (CSL) for both bodily injury liability and property damage liability. This means there’s no stated limit per person; the dollar figure is the maximum amount that will be paid out for all injuries and property damage.
So, let’s say you opt for a CSL of $200,000. And let’s say that you’re at fault in a
car accident
that totals a $30,000 car. Suppose the other driver accumulates medical bills worth $100,000. In this scenario, your policy will fully cover both property damage and bodily injury since the combined expenses fall under your $200,000 CSL limit.
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How much bodily injury liability do I need?

States generally require drivers to get a minimum level of bodily injury liability insurance. While $25,000 is a typical limit, the requirements vary by state. If you live in
, you aren’t required to have this coverage at all.
On the lower end of the scale, there are states like
, which have a minimum limit per person of $15,000 and a limit per accident of $30,000. On the higher end, there are states like
, which require drivers to have a minimum limit per person of $50,000 and limit per accident of $100,000.

How much bodily injury liability insurance should I have?

A good rule of thumb is to get as much coverage as you can afford. Your state’s insurance requirements are the bare minimum you should have; they shouldn’t be interpreted as recommended limits.
According to the
Insurance Information Institute
, the average cost of a liability claim for bodily injury is $15,785. But this number could jump exponentially if multiple people are injured or killed in an accident.
If you only have your state’s minimum requirements and you’re at fault in an accident, it’s possible that the other party’s medical expenses will exceed your limits. In that case, you could be sued for the remaining balance. If the court rules against you, your assets can be seized to pay for the expenses.

What does bodily injury liability cost?

The cost of bodily injury liability varies depending on the driver, the state, and the insurance company. Generally speaking, it can cost you $100 to $170 each month, though you may pay more depending on your level of coverage.
If you opt for your state’s minimum requirements for coverage, you can expect to pay less than if you buy additional coverage above the minimum. If you choose a combined single limit for bodily injury and property damage liability, you may be charged more since the flexibility of a CSL makes it more expensive to insure.

Is bodily injury liability the only liability coverage I need?

There are other forms of liability coverage that you may be required to have, including the following:
Property damage liability: Most states require
property damage liability
. As mentioned above, this is one of the two main components of liability car insurance, and it covers property damage in an accident that you cause. The minimum requirement for property damage liability coverage varies from state to state.
Personal injury protection (PIP): People are required to carry a minimum level of
PIP coverage
in 13 states. PIP differs from bodily injury liability in that it pays for your own medical expenses after a car accident. It can even cover you if you’re a passenger in someone else’s vehicle, or if you’re struck by a car as a bystander or cyclist.
Medical payments coverage (MedPay):
MedPay coverage
is optional in all but two states. It covers medical expenses for you, your family, and passengers in your car, regardless of who’s at fault for the accident. Contrast that with bodily injury liability, which pays for damage caused to others when you’re at fault. MedPay is intended to complement standard liability insurance, and it may be used to enhance PIP coverage.
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage:
and underinsured motorist insurance is required in 22 states. It’s actually two separate types of insurance that are frequently grouped together by insurers. Uninsured motorist coverage applies when a car accident isn’t your fault and the at-fault driver doesn’t have liability insurance to pay for your injuries or property damage. Underinsured motorist coverage kicks in when the at-fault driver does have liability insurance, but not enough to cover your costs.
Comprehensive and collision coverage: No state laws require drivers to carry these coverage types, but you’re usually required to have them if you lease or finance your car. Both
coverage pay for physical damage to your car. Comprehensive kicks in if your car is stolen or damaged outside of a collision. Collision coverage insures your car against damage suffered in a collision with another vehicle or object.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is bodily injury liability required?

You’re required to have this coverage in almost every state. Be sure to check your state’s minimum requirements when you’re looking to buy bodily injury liability. Consult your insurance company or agent to decide how much coverage you need beyond the state minimum.

What happens if you don't have bodily injury?

If you’re caught without this coverage and it’s required in your state, you could be fined or have your driver’s license and/or vehicle registration suspended. If you get into an at-fault accident, you’ll be held financially responsible for others’ injuries and any associated costs. If you’re sued, you may have to liquidate your assets to pay for these expenses.

Is bodily injury the same as liability?

Bodily injury is a type of liability insurance. Liability coverage is made up of two parts, bodily injury liability and property damage liability.

What is the difference between bodily injury liability and personal injury protection?

When you’re the at-fault driver in an accident, bodily injury liability covers other people’s medical costs and loss of wages, as well as your legal fees if you’re sued. Personal injury protection, on the other hand, can pay for your medical expenses and lost wages after a car accident, regardless of who’s at fault.

How to search for BIL insurance quotes

The easiest way to get bodily injury liability quotes is to search online. Comparison shopping is a great way to secure a lower premium. But not everyone has the time or the patience to fill out long forms online for each insurance company, weigh their coverage options, and handle all the paperwork to switch policies.
This is why an insurance shopping app like
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