Bodily Injury Coverage: How Much Do You Need?

woman checking bodily injury coverages

Our ability to move freely from one destination to another subjects us to encounters with other people who are doing the same thing we are. These encounters are generally enriching and mutually satisfying. However, there are times when our encounters due to negligence or carelessness on our part causes physical injury to another person resulting in sickness, disease, disability or even death. No one who is civil wants to deliberately cause harm to another. If we did we would cross the line into criminality which is a whole different set of rules and circumstances. Insurance was never intended to cover criminal activities. It is, however, a way for us to avail ourselves of a way to compensate another individual if in fact we cause him harm. This way is encompassed in the bodily injury provisions of our insurance policies.

The concept of human life value plays a role in bodily injury provisions. Compensation for a broken arm or leg can be easily determined, but what about loss of limbs or sight, total disability or death to a young person just starting to work–as opposed to retired individual no longer even working for a living–or discrepancy of potential income due to profession or occupation. These are the dilemma each of us are in when we determine how much fault we want to take when we have one of those bodily injury encounters.

State departments of insurance have established by regulations minimum limits one will be required to carry in order to obtain permission to drive, but this in no way set a boundary for which you can be held liable. With that potential risk of loss being more than minimum requirements, insurance companies offer a wide range of monetary limitations from which an insured can choose.

Determining How Much Bodily Injury Coverage You Need

You have to determine for yourself what is your ethical or moral responsibility in the event someone is injured due to your actions. The state you live in has determined your legal obligations and you may be perfectly satisfied with those limits; but, again, keep in mind the legal system may feel injured party has right to be compensated far beyond those state requirements. You can be held personally responsible for that additional compensation. A few extra premium dollars spent now may be a pretty good investment to protect hard earned assets which become exposed to seizure if you don’t have sufficient liquid assets.

In your deliberations, consider extra benefits of having an umbrella policy (more on this later) to assist. Here again is a plug for eyeballing an agent across a desk rather than some person you may never see or hear from again. Local agents do want to be more than just an order taker accepting your order for a commodity on sale for half price.

One more thought. When discussing liability limits you will be introduced to these terms: (1) per individual bodily injury, (2) per occurrence for bodily injury, and (3) per occurrence property damage and combined single limit liability.


Example, a person may carry a policy which has bodily injury limits of $100,000 per person/ $300,000 per occurrence and property damage of $50,000.  You get into a vehicle accident where you hit another vehicle causing $38,000 of damage. The driver sustains bodily injury of $11,0000 and cannot work at his job as a crane operator paying $110/hr. His doctor advised him he will be off work for at least 3 months with total home care. The passenger in the car gets dinged up to the tune of $40,000 bodily injury. He was retired so no lost wages. Your car forced the other car across road, running over a bicyclist totaling his $1200 racing bike and putting him in intensive care with at present an unknown period of time, and destroyed a chain link fence valued at $5000, before vehicle came to rest.  How this is handled? After having you sign a hold harmless agreement and investigation, the insurance adjuster determines you are at 100% at fault in the claim. The adjuster immediately reserves the limits of your policy as he sets up the claim. He sees the per person amount of $100,000 is going to exhaust itself just for the driver, so he reserves that amount for him. He then turns his attention to the passenger and the bicyclist. He reserves $40,000 for the passenger, which leaves $60,000 for bicyclist–even though there is $260,000 left under policy limits. Keep in mind there is a $100,000 per person limit on the policy. Property damage of $1200 is paid for the bike and $5000 is paid for the fence.

If this insured was carrying a combined single limit of $300,000 to cover bodily injury and property damage, the adjuster could have manipulated the funds to better serve all parties concerned. This provision may cost you more but definitely gives greater flexibility to the adjuster in event of claims.

A good agent comes in handy here!


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