What Happens If I Only Have Liability Insurance and Someone Hits Me?

Getting into a car accident can be stressful, confusing, and financially burdensome. When another driver is at fault for the accident, you may expect their liability insurance to fully cover the damages. But what if you only carry the minimum liability insurance required by law? Will you still be protected if someone else hits your car?

Unfortunately, liability insurance only pays for damage that policyholders cause to others. It does not cover your own vehicle repairs or medical bills. Having only liability when another driver crashes into you can leave you unprotected and facing potentially thousands of dollars in unexpected out-of-pocket costs.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore what happens when you only have liability insurance and are hit by another driver.

Liability Insurance Basics

Liability car insurance covers bodily injury and property damage that you, the policyholder, cause to others in an at-fault accident. There are two components:

  • Bodily Injury Liability: Pays for medical expenses of other parties injured by the policyholder in an accident. May also cover lost wages, pain and suffering, and funeral costs.

  • Property Damage Liability: Pays for repairs to another driver’s vehicle or other property damaged by the policyholder.

Nearly every state requires drivers to carry minimum liability insurance. But liability coverage does not pay for your own vehicle repairs or medical bills resulting from an accident where you are not at fault.

What Happens When You’re Hit?

If you have only liability insurance and are struck by another driver who is at fault, here is what typically takes place:

  • You will file a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, not your own insurer. Their liability coverage should pay for your vehicle repairs and medical bills.

  • If the at-fault driver’s liability limits are inadequate to fully cover your losses, you may be left paying the difference out of pocket.

  • Without collision or comprehensive coverage, your own insurer will not pay anything for your vehicle repairs. You will have to pay your deductible and any other uncovered repair costs.

  • Your medical bills also won’t be covered under a liability-only policy. You’ll need to rely on the other driver’s liability and/or your health insurance.

  • If the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, you may have no coverage at all for your losses, unless you carry appropriate UM/UIM coverage.

Why Liability-Only Insurance Falls Short

There are a few reasons why liability insurance leaves gaps in your protection if you’re hit by an at-fault driver:

  • It only covers damage you cause. Liability only pays claims made against the policyholder by other parties. It was never intended to cover your own losses.

  • Minimum limits are often inadequate. Many drivers carry just the minimum liability limits required in their state, such as 15/30/5. This provides only $15,000 bodily injury coverage per person injured, up to $30,000 per accident, and $5,000 in property damage coverage. Those low limits may not go very far if multiple people are injured or vehicles are totaled.

  • Lawsuits can exceed limits. Even 100/300/100 liability limits can be consumed quickly in a major accident with multiple claimants. Their combined medical bills and lawsuit claims can easily surpass policy maximums.

  • Vehicle repair costs add up. The average car repair bill now tops $4,000. Just a minor fender bender can lead to repair costs in the thousands, exceeding lower liability limits.

  • You pay what insurance doesn’t cover. Any accident-related costs beyond the liable party’s coverage limits come out of your own pocket. Without your own collision, UM/UIM or medical payments coverage, your bills can pile up quickly.

Bottom line: Anyone who drives should strongly consider carrying more than just basic liability insurance. Comprehensive and collision coverage, plus adequate UM/UIM and medical payments coverage can help fill liability gaps and avoid massive out-of-pocket costs.

How Much Does Liability Insurance Pay If You’re Hit?

If you’re struck by an at-fault insured driver, their liability coverage will pay up to the policy limits. For example:

  • If they have 100/300/50 liability limits, their insurer will pay up to $100,000 per person for bodily injury claims, $300,000 per accident total, and $50,000 for property damage like vehicle repairs.

  • Any amounts above those limits would be your responsibility, unless you have applicable coverage under your own policy (UM/UIM, collision, etc.)

  • Most experts recommend carrying liability limits equal to your net worth or assets. But many drivers stick with minimum required limits, which may only be 15/30/5 or 25/50/25 in some states. Those low limits leave accident victims at risk of uncovered losses.

You can’t control how much coverage others carry. That’s why having ample coverage of your own is wise. Don’t rely solely on the other driver’s policy to make you whole after an accident. Their minimum liability limits just don’t provide enough protection.

What If the Other Driver Has No Insurance?

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) pays for your accident-related costs when the at-fault driver has little or no liability insurance. Here’s how it works if you’re hit by an uninsured driver:

  • Your own UM coverage will pay for injuries to you and your passengers, up to the limits you chose. It will also pay for vehicle repairs if you opted for UM property damage coverage.

  • If you have no UM coverage, you may have zero protection. The other motorist likely has no assets to pursue, leaving you stuck with huge medical and repair bills.

  • Carrying adequate UM coverage limits prevents an uninsured driver from financially devastating you after an accident you didn’t cause.

  • UM coverage is relatively affordable, often just a few extra dollars per month. Don’t decline this vital protection.

Drivers are not required to carry UM/UIM coverage in every state. But it’s almost always a smart idea to add this coverage. Otherwise, you could end up empty-handed after a serious accident caused by an irresponsible uninsured driver.

Can I Claim Bodily Injury If I Only Have Liability?

Unfortunately, no. Liability insurance only pays for harm you cause others, not for your own medical expenses. Without personal injury protection, medical payments coverage, or health insurance, you would generally need to pay your own accident-related medical costs out of pocket.

Some options for covering your medical bills after being hit by an at-fault driver include:

  • File a claim under the other driver’s liability policy and hope their limits are sufficient.

  • Use your health insurance if you have it. Auto-related claims should be covered like any other injury.

  • Purchase medical payments coverage (MedPay) to complement your liability policy. This covers medical costs regardless of fault.

  • Consider no-fault coverage like personal injury protection (PIP) where available. This pays medical expenses without determining fault.

Don’t assume the other driver’s liability will adequately cover your injury claims. Their policy limits may cap out quickly, leaving you stuck with uncovered expenses. Having your own medical and/or PIP coverage helps avoid this predicament.

Can I Sue for Damages?

Yes, you can pursue compensation beyond insurance policy limits by suing an at-fault driver after an accident. But collecting can be difficult.

Here are some keys to keep in mind:

  • Lawsuits take time and evidence to pursue. Police reports, witness statements, medical records and cost documentation is required.

  • The liable driver must have sufficient assets not protected from creditors that you can legally pursue. If they have few assets, a lawsuit judgment may yield little payout.

  • You generally need an attorney to successfully win and collect lawsuit compensation. Their fees come out of any settlement received.

  • Juries don’t always award the full damages sought in a lawsuit. Court awards are never guaranteed.

Bottom line: Lawsuits should not take the place of carrying your own adequate insurance. UM/UIM, collision, and medical payments coverage offer more direct, predictable, and timely compensation when accidents happen.

Tips for Protection With Liability-Only Insurance

Here are some tips to better protect yourself when carrying a liability-only auto insurance policy:

  • Purchase UM/UIM coverage to protect against uninsured and underinsured motorists. Don’t drive without this vital extra coverage.

  • Up your liability limits. 100/300/100 provides 4 times more coverage than basic 25/50/25 policies. It costs just pennies more per month in premium.

  • Set aside an emergency fund to pay your deductible and other out-of-pocket costs in the event of an accident. Aim to have at least $5,000 saved.

  • Review your health insurance policy. Verify that auto accident injuries will be covered and understand any copays, deductibles or limits that may apply.

  • Learn your state’s

The driver who hit me doesn’t have insurance. Can anything be done?


How does insurance work when its not your fault?

If you file a claim with your carrier when you are not at fault, your carrier will eventually begin a process called subrogation. Essentially, this means that once liability is determined, your insurance carrier will send a demand to the at-fault party’s carrier to pay back the damages that were paid out to you.

Does liability insurance cover you or the other person?

Basically, liability coverage is a part of your car insurance policy, and helps pay for the other driver’s expenses if you cause a car accident. It does not, however, cover your own. It’s important to note there are two types of liability coverage: bodily injury and property damage.

Is it better to have full coverage or liability?

What Is the Difference Between Liability and Full Coverage? Liability car insurance only covers damages to other vehicles or injuries to other people when you’re driving. Full coverage insurance includes liability coverage along with other types of insurance to protect not only others, but also yourself on the road.

What happens if liability insurance is not enough?

If the damage a driver does to others exceeds the amount of liability coverage they have, they could be personally sued for any money their insurer won’t pay. There’s a very real chance of this happening, since state liability coverage requirements are usually pretty limited.

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