Your Guide to Liability Car Insurance

Liability car insurance covers medical bills and property damage for other drivers if you cause an accident. You must meet minimum limits but higher limits are recommended.
Written by Amy Bobinger
Edited by Sarah Gray
Liability
car insurance
is required in nearly all states and helps pay for property damage and bodily injury for other drivers involved in accidents that you cause. For optimal protection, you can—and should—purchase more than your state’s minimum liability limits. 

Liability insurance: The basics

Liability car insurance is a type of auto insurance coverage that protects other drivers on the road if you’re at fault in an accident. Liability coverage is made up of two basic components: 
  • Bodily injury liability
    (BI) covers the costs of medical bills for injuries to the other driver and their passengers, up to your policy limits, if you cause an accident
  • Property damage liability
    (PD) pays for the other driver’s property damage, up to your policy limits, if you cause an accident
Drivers are required to purchase minimum liability coverage limits in all states except
New Hampshire
. But many car insurance policyholders opt to increase their liability limits higher than their state’s minimum requirements for better financial protection in the event of an at-fault accident. 
  • Typical state minimum liability requirements: 25/50/25, or $25,000 of bodily injury liability per person, $50,000 of bodily injury liability per accident, $25,000 of property damage liability per accident
  • Recommended higher liability limits for better protection: 50/100/50, 100/300/100, or 250/500/250
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State liability requirements are strict: In nearly every state, you must have car insurance with at least your state’s minimum amount of liability insurance before you register a vehicle or, in some cases, obtain your driver’s license. If you do not adhere to your state’s
insurance requirements
, you could face fines, license suspension, and even jail time. 
Additionally, most states in the U.S.—excluding Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania—require that those caught driving without insurance file an
SR-22 certificate
.

Liability insurance protects other drivers

If you damage another vehicle or another person’s property with your car, the other party involved can
file an insurance claim
with your insurance company. Depending on the type of claim, your bodily injury liability or property damage liability will then cover any of the other driver’s medical expenses or repair costs up to your car insurance policy limits.
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Bodily injury liability

The BIL portion of your liability insurance policy covers you as the at-fault driver, paying the bodily injury costs stemming from an accident you cause. These costs include:

  • Ongoing medical expenses

  • Funeral costs

  • Lost income

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Property damage liability

The other component of liability insurance, PDL, helps cover damage like repairing vehicles and property damaged in an accident that you cause up to your property damage limit. Covered property can include:

  • Vehicles

  • Buildings

  • Signs

  • Other roadside objects

If your insurance doesn’t cover all of the costs, the other party can take you to court to cover any remaining expenses above and beyond the maximum coverage amount.

The average minimum liability policy costs $928

The average cost of minimum car insurance, which includes liability coverage and other state-mandated coverages, is $928. Remember that prices vary depending on where you live, your age, and other car insurance rate factors. 
Here are the average annual rates for state minimum car insurance coverage in every state, plus the District of Columbia.
State
Average cost of state minimum coverage
$764
$1,340
$798
$733
$787
$723
$1,178
$996
District of Columbia
$930
$2,090
$1,253
$981
$509
$756
$509
$522
$662
$1,304
$1,255
$488
$1,090
$717
$1,414
$805
$712
$785
$536
$621
$753
$511
$1,120
$653
$1,459
$511
$875
$590
$721
$840
$635
$798
$1,360
$639
$713
$1,022
$804
$434
$733
$777
$704
$506
$342
National average
$1,526

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What affects your liability car insurance rates

While state average costs can give you an idea of your liability car insurance rate, the actual cost of your auto insurance policy will depend on multiple factors, including: 
  • Address: Your state, city, and ZIP code are used to calculate your car insurance rate based on theft, crime, and accident rates.
  • Age: Young drivers under 25 years old and senior drivers over 70 years old may face higher rates due to their risk level. 
  • Driving record: Speeding tickets, DUIs, and other moving violations can raise your premiums.
  • Insurance history: A record of at-fault accidents or a lapse in coverage can lead to a pricier rate.
  • Your coverage level: Purchasing higher liability coverage limits than your state’s requirements can result in steeper premiums (but is usually worth it).
Auto insurance companies may also use your credit score, gender, marital status, and other factors to
calculate the rate
for your auto liability insurance coverage.
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Shop around to find the best rates: The best way to find the cheapest car insurance for your driver profile is to compare quotes from different providers. In the
Jerry
app, you can build a driver profile and browse personalized
auto insurance quotes
from dozens of companies in one convenient place.

Choosing the right liability insurance limit

Beyond the
minimum coverage required by your state
, the amount of liability insurance you need varies from driver to driver.
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If you have a high net worth and future earning potential: Consider getting additional liability insurance coverage to protect your assets—at least 100/300/100 if you can afford it. You may also benefit from an
umbrella policy
.
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If you have a lower net worth and future earning potential: Additional coverage might not be necessary, but increasing your limits to at least 50/100/50 is a good idea if it fits into your budget.
Is 50/100/50 liability insurance enough? According to the 
Insurance Information Institute
, the average auto liability claim in 2022 is $24,211 for bodily injury per person and $5,313 for property damage. On the high side, a few days in the hospital can cost $100,000 per person, a new car replacement is $50,000 on average, and the average settlement in a car accident lawsuit is $23,000. 50/100/50 liability coverage may offer protection, but higher liability limits of 100/300/100 or 250/500/250 will cover the worst cases.

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Average cost to increase your liability limits

Jerry's experts analyzed thousands of car insurance policies purchased by Jerry customers to determine how much increasing liability limits impacts monthly car insurance rates on average. Here’s what they found from some of the nation’s top insurance companies:
Provider
15/30/15
25/50/25
50/100/50
100/300/100
$175
$199
$262
$299
$161
$193
$222
$245
$63
$149
$181
$183
$89
$100
$140
$203
$116
$160
$216
$227
$117
$167
$181
$194
$157
$158
$192
$198
$140
$164
$179
$197
$108
$169
$190
$210
$164
$182
$208
$213
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Consider purchasing more than liability coverage

In addition to liability car insurance, you should consider
full coverage car insurance
with comprehensive and collision coverage. Other coverage options like PIP or MedPay and gap insurance could also come in handy. Let’s take a closer look at your options.

Liability coverage vs. full coverage

Liability insurance offers coverage for the other driver’s damages and medical expenses, but it won’t pay to repair or replace your own vehicle if it’s damaged or stolen. To protect yourself from unexpected claims, it’s a good idea to upgrade to
full coverage insurance
with collision and comprehensive coverage. 
Unlike liability insurance,
collision car insurance
covers damages from the following: 
  • A crash you cause
  • A collision with an object (including a tree, fence, or mailbox)
  • Your car rolling over
  • Another driver hitting your car if they don’t have any or enough insurance (if you don’t have uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist property damage coverage)
Additionally,
comprehensive car insurance
covers damages from perils including: 
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Falling objects
  • Flood 
  • Fire 
  • Hitting an animal
  • Natural disasters
  • Glass damage (such as a cracked windshield)
You must pay a
deductible
for collision and comprehensive coverage, which applies before your coverage kicks in.
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Coverage for financed vehicles: If you are financing or leasing your vehicle, your lender will typically require you to purchase full coverage car insurance. You may also be required to purchase
gap coverage
for the duration of your car loan or lease.

Liability coverage vs. PIP and MedPay

Liability insurance does not provide any medical payments for you or your passengers. For personal medical coverage, you can purchase
personal injury protection
or
medical payments coverage
(sometimes referred to as MedPay). 
PIP and MedPay are not the same
, but they both provide coverage for medical expenses regardless of who is found at fault. PIP is typically required in
no-fault states
, while medical payments coverage is only required in Maine, and New Hampshire if applicable.
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FAQ

Does liability cover my car if I’m at fault?

No, liability car insurance will not cover your vehicle if you are at fault. Liability insurance will cover vehicular damages and medical bills for the not-at-fault driver and their passengers, within the limits of your coverage. If you want coverage for your car in the event of an at-fault accident, you’ll need to purchase collision coverage.

Should I get liability insurance if I drive but don’t own a car?

Liability car insurance follows the car and will offer protection no matter the driver—so if you’re driving cars that you don’t own and you are not an excluded driver on their policy, you will likely be covered by the owner’s liability insurance. 
If you frequently drive but you don’t own a car, you may consider purchasing
non-owner car insurance
. Non-owner insurance is optional liability insurance for drivers who don’t own vehicles but frequently drive borrowed or rented cars.
Lastly, if you drive a family member’s vehicle and live in the same household, you should be listed on their policy as a named driver.

Does liability insurance cover hit-and-run?

Your liability insurance will not cover a hit-and-run accident. 
If the other driver was at fault, their liability insurance would theoretically cover your damages and medical bills—but you would need the other driver’s insurance information to file a claim. If the at-fault driver does not stick around to exchange information, you will not receive financial support from their liability coverage.
To avoid dealing with repair bills and medical expenses after a hit-and-run accident, consider buying collision insurance and personal injury protection. Collision insurance covers your car no matter who is at fault, and personal injury protection does the same for your medical bills. 

Does liability insurance cover vehicle damage from weather or natural disasters?

No, liability insurance does not cover weather-related damage. Comprehensive car insurance offers coverage for damages from weather or a natural disaster.

Does liability insurance cover theft?

No, liability insurance does not cover theft. Comprehensive insurance will cover your vehicle if it's stolen or if damages occur from a break-in.

Does liability insurance cover if you’re not at fault?

If you are not at fault for an accident, the at-fault driver’s liability insurance should cover your vehicular damages and your medical expenses. 
In no-fault states, each driver’s car insurance will cover their own bills.

Do I pay a deductible for liability insurance claims?

No, there is no deductible for liability insurance claims.

What happens if I don’t have enough liability insurance for a car accident?

If you are at fault for an accident and your liability insurance does not cover the full cost of repairs and medical bills for the not-at-fault driver, you could be sued for the remaining costs.
For example, if you have $20,000 in bodily injury liability per person and the medical bills are $30,000, you’ll need to pay the remaining $10,000 out of pocket. 
Talk to an insurance agent to decide on the best liability limit for your needs. In most cases, they will suggest investing in higher liability limits to avoid paying for unexpected post-accident bills and to avoid a lawsuit.

Is 50/100/50 liability insurance enough?

50/100/50 means you have $50,000 for
bodily injury
caused per person, $100,000 for bodily injury per accident, and $50,000 for
property damage
you cause. If you get into an accident with another commuter and they sue you for damages, you may not have enough coverage.
50/100/50 liability insurance offers a good amount of coverage, but for the best protection, it may be worth considering a policy with 100/300/100 liability coverage.

What is the difference between liability coverage and full coverage?

Liability insurance offers coverage for the other driver’s medical bills and property damage costs following an accident that you caused. Full coverage includes liability insurance, but it also offers comprehensive and collision coverage. 
Comprehensive coverage will cover damages to your vehicle caused by things like theft, vandalism, falling objects, flood damage, and more. 
Collision insurance offers coverage for damages to your vehicle caused by a crash you cause, a collision with an object, your car rolling over, and more.

Methodology

To determine average insurance rates, Jerry's experts analyze thousands of policies purchased by our customers. Our data are based on real policy premiums for all customers in a given category. 
Where real customer data are not available, Jerry’s editorial team researches average rates using expert sources from Forbes, NerdWallet, ValuePenguin, WalletHub, The Zebra, and CarInsurance.com. Our data shows the average of the data shared by those sources. 

Meet our experts

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Amy Bobinger
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Licensed Insurance Agent — Expert Insurance Editor
Expert insurance writer and editor Amy Bobinger specializes in car repair, car maintenance, and car insurance. Amy is passionate about creating content that helps consumers navigate challenges related to car ownership and achieve financial success in areas relating to cars.
Amy has over 10 years of writing and editing experience. After several years as a freelance writer, Amy spent four years as an editing fellow at WikiHow, where she co-authored over 600 articles on topics including car maintenance and home ownership. Since joining Jerry’s editorial team in 2022, Amy has edited over 2,500 articles on car insurance, state driving laws, and car repair and maintenance.
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Sarah Gray
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Licensed Insurance Agent — Expert Insurance Writer and Editor
Sarah Gray is an insurance writer with nearly a decade of experience in publishing and writing. Sarah specializes in writing articles that educate car owners and buyers on the full scope of car ownership—from shopping for and buying a new car to scrapping one that’s breathed its last and everything in between. Sarah has authored over 1,500 articles for Jerry on topics ranging from first-time buyer programs to how to get a salvage title for a totaled car.
Prior to joining Jerry, Sarah was a full-time professor of English literature and composition with multiple academic writing publications.

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