Property Damage Liability: What Is It? What Does It Cover?

Property damage liability protects property in the event of an accident, but is property damage liability required? Read this guide to learn more.
Written by R.E. Fulton
background
Property damage liability (PDL) coverage can protect you financially if you’re at fault in a car accident that causes damage to another person’s property.
It’s one of the two types of
car insurance
that make up liability insurance, which is mandatory for drivers in almost every state. But what is property damage liability? Is it required in your state? And how can you find the lowest rates on this essential coverage?
Jerry
, the
trustworthy super app
created to save drivers money on every type of insurance, has answers to all those questions. Read on to learn everything you should know about this type of auto insurance coverage.
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What is property damage liability insurance?

Property damage liability is one of the most common
types of car insurance
and one of two types of
liability insurance
, along with
bodily injury liability coverage
.
“Okay,” you say. “So what is liability insurance?”
Liability insurance protects you from financial responsibility for other drivers’ expenses if you’re at fault in a car accident.
Let’s say you lose focus during your morning commute and accidentally dent the bumper of the car in front of you. Without property damage liability insurance, you’d have to pay out of pocket for their vehicle repairs. But if you’re carrying that essential coverage, your insurance company will foot the bill.
Bodily injury liability insurance, which usually goes hand-in-hand with PDL coverage, covers medical bills for other drivers if you’re in an at-fault accident.

What property damage liability insurance covers

Property damage liability covers other people’s cars and property, which can include things like building fronts, mailboxes, and fences. If you rear-end someone, your coverage will pay the cost to repair their vehicle. If you accidentally back into a neighbor’s front gate, your coverage will pay to repair the damage.
Property damage liability may even cover personal items that are in someone else’s car at the time of an accident. If the other party had a laptop in their car and it was damaged, they can file a property damage liability claim through your insurance company to get a payout for their damaged computer.

...and what it doesn’t cover

What property damage liability doesn’t cover, however, is damage to your own car. For that, you should consider adding
collision coverage
or
comprehensive insurance
to your car insurance policy.
Collision insurance will pay to repair or replace your vehicle if it's damaged in a crash with another car. Comprehensive car insurance covers you when another event, such as a falling tree or
extreme weather event
, causes damage to your car.

How to add property damage liability to your auto insurance policy

When you buy property damage liability coverage, you have to select a limit. If you choose a split limit policy, it typically distributes your coverage into three parts: bodily injury liability per person, bodily injury liability per accident, and property damage liability per accident.
Your policy limits are commonly expressed in number form: 25/50/20, for example. 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.
In the above example, the number 20 stands for $20,000. That means you have a property damage liability limit of $20,000 and your coverage will pay up to $20,000 for the combined property damage in an accident that you caused. Higher limits add to the cost of your policy, but they also give you better coverage.
In some states, drivers have the option to buy a combined single limit (CSL) policy for both bodily injury liability and property damage liability. The limit represents the maximum amount that will be paid out for all injuries and property damage in an accident.
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How much property damage insurance do I need?

States generally require drivers to get a minimum level of property damage liability insurance. Minimum coverage requirements can vary significantly by state; they range from $5,000 to $25,000 per accident.
At the low end of the scale, states like
California
and
Massachusetts
have a mandatory property damage liability limit of $5,000. At the midrange, there are states like
Maryland
and
Arizona
with a mandatory limit of $15,000.
And at the top of the scale, you’ll find states including
Mississippi
and
North Dakota
with a mandatory limit of $25,000.
New Hampshire
is the only state that doesn’t require all drivers to purchase property damage liability insurance.
So how much do you need? According to the
Insurance Information Institute
, the average liability claim for property damage is $3,841. That’s less than the minimum amount required in every state.
However, if you’re found responsible for a major accident and the costs of the property damage exceed your limit, you still have to pay the remaining balance and you may be sued. If the court rules against you, your assets can be seized to pay off the balance. Not only will you face legal challenges, but you can expect the cost of your insurance to skyrocket going forward.
To avoid this kind of worst-case scenario, it’s recommended that you go beyond your state’s insurance requirements and get as much property damage liability coverage as you can afford.
Limits for property damage liability coverage typically range from $5,000 to $100,000. Try to aim for a limit that matches your overall net worth. This will provide protection for your assets in the event of a lawsuit.

How much does property damage liability cost?

The cost of property damage liability varies depending on the driver, the state, and the insurance company.
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 live in an area with more drivers, there’s a greater chance that you’ll get into a car accident—so companies set higher insurance rates in these areas.

How to search for property damage liability insurance quotes

The best way to find cheap property damage liability insurance is to compare multiple quotes from different companies. But that can be a time-consuming and frustrating process—if you’re doing it alone.
Shopping with
Jerry
is different. As a licensed insurance broker and the world’s first super app for car owners, Jerry can find customized quotes for property damage liability insurance and other coverage types in under 45 seconds—and your quotes will be drawn from a pool of over 55 of the top insurance companies!
Not sure which coverage limits to choose? Jerry’s team of insurance experts are standing by to help you decide. We’ll also show you other coverage options, such as
uninsured motorist coverage
or
medical payments (MedPay) coverage
. Whether you’re trying to max out your protection with a hefty liability policy or stick to the minimum limits set by your state, Jerry is here to help!
“Just for state minimum liability, I was getting quotes from $70 to over $100/month until I found
Jerry
. Now my car insurance is under $30/month, or $140 for 6 months. Thank you, Jerry!” —Frank S.
In the context of property damage liability, property damage is the damage or destruction of property owned by a third party in a car accident. As the policyholder, you are the first party and your insurance company is the second party.
To get adequate protection, it’s recommended that you purchase more coverage than is required by your state. Be sure to check
your state’s minimum requirements
when you’re looking to buy liability insurance, which includes both property damage liability and bodily injury liability. Consult your insurance company or agent to decide how much coverage you need beyond the state minimum.
Property damage liability covers damage that you’ve caused to other people’s property (including other vehicles). Physical damage coverage, which includes collision and comprehensive insurance, protects your own vehicle.
No, there’s no deductible for property damage liability coverage. In fact, liability car insurance never requires a deductible.
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