Filing an insurance claim after a car accident can be confusing, especially when it comes to bodily injury claims. Many drivers wonder if they can file a bodily injury claim against their own insurance after an accident.
The short answer is no. You cannot file a bodily injury claim against your own insurance policy. Here’s a detailed look at why not and how bodily injury claims work.
What is Bodily Injury Liability Insurance?
Bodily injury liability coverage is a required component of auto insurance in most states. This type of car insurance covers medical expenses and other losses when you cause an accident that injures someone else.
For example, if you crash into another vehicle and the driver breaks their leg, your bodily injury liability insurance helps pay their medical bills and lost wages while they recover.
Bodily injury liability insurance protects you financially if you cause an accident. Without it, you’d have to pay for the other party’s injuries and losses out of pocket.
Why You Can’t File a Bodily Injury Claim Against Your Own Policy
You cannot file a bodily injury liability claim against your own auto insurance for a few important reasons:
Bodily injury liability only covers other people – not you. It pays when you injure someone else. It does not cover your own medical treatment.
Making a claim would be like suing yourself. Your bodily injury liability insurance protects you from liability when you cause an accident. Filing a liability claim against your own policy doesn’t make sense logically.
Two policies must be involved. For a bodily injury claim to be valid, one driver’s liability coverage must pay for the other driver’s injuries and losses. When only one policy exists, liability coverage doesn’t apply.
So in what situations can you file a bodily injury claim after a car accident? Here are the two scenarios:
You caused an accident and injured another driver who files a claim against your auto insurance policy. This is the most common bodily injury claim situation.
Another driver caused an accident and injured you. In this case, you would file a bodily injury claim against their liability insurance, not your own.
As you can see, bodily injury claims after car accidents always involve two insurance policies – never just one.
What if I Don’t Have Bodily Injury Liability Insurance?
Every state except New Hampshire requires drivers to carry bodily injury liability coverage. But what if you don’t have this required insurance and cause an accident that injures someone else?
If you cause an accident without bodily injury liability insurance, you are personally responsible for covering the other driver’s medical bills and other losses. This can easily total tens of thousands of dollars depending on their injuries.
Some options for paying their expenses include:
- Using your health insurance or the other driver’s health insurance
- Paying medical bills directly out of pocket
- Working out a payment plan with hospitals/doctors
- Liquidating assets to get money
- Facing wage garnishment if you can’t pay
As you can see, paying for someone else’s injuries yourself is financially devastating if you lack bodily injury liability coverage. This shows why carrying state minimum liability limits is crucial.
When Can I File a Claim Against My Own Insurance Company?
Although you can’t file a bodily injury liability claim against your own insurer, there are times when making a claim against your own policy makes sense.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage protects you if an uninsured driver hits your vehicle. This optional coverage pays for your medical bills, lost wages, and other costs up to your policy limits.
So if an uninsured driver injures you in a crash they caused, you would file a claim through your own uninsured motorist insurance, not their policy (since they don’t have one).
MedPay or Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
MedPay and PIP are optional types of first-party injury coverage:
MedPay covers medical expenses for you and your passengers after an accident, regardless of fault.
PIP also pays medical costs for you and passengers. In no-fault states, it may cover lost wages and other accident-related expenses too.
If you have MedPay or PIP and are injured in an accident, you can file a first-party claim against your own policy to recoup medical costs and other covered benefits.
Collision and Comprehensive Coverage
Collision and comprehensive insurance cover damage to your own vehicle. You can file claims against your own policy if:
Someone hits your parked car and drives off (collision claim).
A tree branch falls on your car during a storm (comprehensive claim).
Your vehicle is stolen (comprehensive claim).
In these situations, you aren’t at fault but still need to file a claim to fix or replace your car. Using your own collision or comprehensive insurance allows you to get your vehicle repaired or replaced quickly and efficiently.
How to File an Insurance Claim After an Accident
The steps for filing an insurance claim depend on whether you or the other driver caused the accident.
If You Caused the Accident
If you caused the crash, here’s what to do:
Report the accident to your insurance company right away. Provide details about what happened.
Cooperate fully with your insurer’s investigation of the claim. Give a recorded statement about how the crash occurred if requested.
Send your insurer any evidence they need, like police reports.
Pay your deductible if the claim is approved and repairs or medical payments are made.
Let your insurance company communicate with the other driver and handle settlement negotiations.
If You Were Hit by an At-Fault Driver
If another driver caused the accident, take these steps:
Call the police to get an official report documenting blame.
Get the other driver’s name, license plate number, insurance details, and contact information.
Report the accident to your insurance provider for guidance.
File a claim against the at-fault driver’s liability coverage to pay for your medical treatment, lost wages, vehicle repairs, and other expenses.
Provide your insurer with evidence like medical records and repair estimates to support your claim.
Negotiate a settlement with the other driver’s insurance company. Have an attorney represent you for the best results.
Limits of Bodily Injury Liability Insurance
Bodily injury liability coverage has limits on how much it pays per person and per accident. Common limits are:
- $25,000 per injured person
- $50,000 per accident
So if you cause an accident that injures three people, the maximum payout is $50,000 total. The limits depend on what you selected when purchasing your policy.
Higher liability limits cost more in premiums but give greater protection. If you have substantial assets to protect, choosing limits above the minimum state requirements is wise.
Bodily Injury vs. Property Damage Liability
Besides bodily injury liability coverage, auto insurance policies also include property damage liability. The key differences between the two are:
Bodily injury liability covers injuries that an at-fault driver causes to other people. This includes medical treatment, lost wages, pain and suffering, and wrongful death damages.
Property damage liability pays to repair or replace another driver’s vehicle and property when you cause an accident. For example, if you total someone else’s car, property damage coverage pays its actual cash value.
Most states require drivers to carry both bodily injury and property damage liability insurance. Property damage limits are commonly $25,000 per accident but can be as high as $100,000 or more.
Is Bodily Injury Liability Required?
Bodily injury liability insurance is mandatory in every state except New Hampshire. However, the minimum required limits vary significantly by state.
According to Insurance Information Institute data, here are the most common state bodily injury liability limits across the U.S.:
|Minimum BI Limits per Person
|Minimum BI Limits per Accident
As the table shows, state requirements range from just $10,000 per person in Florida to $30,000 per person in Texas. It’s essential to know your state’s minimums when buying car insurance.
Experts recommend choosing higher bodily injury limits if possible, such as $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. This ensures you have adequate coverage in case of a major accident. Lower limits may fall far short of covering severe injuries.
The Bottom Line
While you cannot file a bodily injury liability claim against your own insurer, this type of car insurance is still vital. It protects your finances if you cause an accident by paying the other driver’s medical bills and related costs.
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