IN PLAIN ENGLISH

Property damage liability coverage defined

The property damage portion of your liability insurance coverage pays for the physical damage that you cause in an at-fault car accident. It protects you from having to pay out-of-pocket for expenses like:

  • Vehicle repairs for the other party
  • Fixing destruction to other property affected by the accident (like houses and businesses)
  • Legal defense fees sustained by the property damage claim

Liability insurance only covers damage that you caused to someone else. To cover your own car, you would need comprehensive and collision coverages as part of your car insurance policy.

 

What is a property damage liability limit?

Every state sets its own liability coverage limits; these limits specify the minimum amount of liability coverage you need to be a legal driver. This is always shown as split limits, which looks like this: 25/50/25. Those numbers correspond to how much coverage you have for each form of liability coverage. In this example, the allocated limits are $25,000 for bodily injury per person, $50,000 for bodily injury per accident, and $25,000 for property damage per accident, respectively. This means that your insurance policy will pay out a maximum of $25,000 to cover the property damage you’ve caused to someone else.

It’s always a good idea to raise your liability limits beyond what your state requires — and this can be done for a relatively small increase in premium. Some states set low limits, and the expenses accrued from an accident can quickly eclipse the maximum coverage amounts dictated on your policy. Setting your limits high can save you from being on the hook for expenses accrued after your coverage limits are exhausted.

 

What is the difference between bodily injury and property damage liability?

Liability insurance is the sum of two parts: coverages for bodily injury and property damage. Bodily injury liability refers to the other party’s medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages as a result of the accident, while property damage coverage is responsible for the damage sustained by their vehicle. Bodily injury and property damage coverages work in tandem to protect you from being financially responsible for the other party’s losses.

 

How much property damage liability coverage do I need?

As previously mentioned, we always recommend keeping your liability limits as high as you can afford, as the minimums are quite low in some states. Below are state minimums for property damage.

STATE-BY-STATE PROPERTY DAMAGE LIABILITY LIMITS
StateProperty Damage Liability Limit
Alabama$25,000
Alaska$25,000
Arizona$10,000
Arkansas$25,000
California$5,000
Colorado$15,000
Connecticut$25,000
Delaware$10,000
Florida$10,000
Georgia$25,000
Hawaii$10,000
Idaho$15,000
Illinois$20,000
Indiana$25,000
Iowa$15,000
Kansas$25,000
Kentucky$25,000
Louisiana$25,000
Maine$25,000
Maryland$15,000
Massachusetts$5,000
Michigan$10,000
Minnesota$10,000
Mississippi$25,000
Missouri$25,000
Montana$20,000
Nebraska$25,000
Nevada$20,000
New Hampshire $25,000
New Jersey$5,000
New Mexico$10,000
New York$10,000
North Carolina$25,000
North Dakota$25,000
Ohio$25,000
Oklahoma$25,000
Oregon$20,000
Pennsylvania$5,000
Rhode Island$25,000
South Carolina$25,000
South Dakota$25,000
Tennessee$15,000
Texas$25,000
Utah$15,000
Vermont$10,000
Virginia$20,000
Washington$10,000
Washington DC$10,000
West Virginia$25,000
Wisconsin$10,000
Wyoming$20,000

 

How to get extra protection for property damage liability

An umbrella insurance policy is a great safeguard in the event of an accident leading to a high dollar amount in damage. Those with significant assets or high net worth may have more to lose in liability claims. An umbrella policy will cover the rest of the costs once you’ve reached your limits and can cover up to millions of dollars to protect your liability. Most insurance companies require that your auto insurance limits are set high (typically 250/500/100) before you can qualify for umbrella coverage.

Another option is to opt for a combined single limit liability car insurance policy over the typical split limits. The difference is that combined single limits do not limit the dollar amounts to be used for bodily injury and property damage. Instead, it has a maximum amount that can be used for any combination of bodily injury and property damage expenses per accident. However, combined single limit auto insurance policies tend to come with higher premiums.

Increasing your liability limits well-above the minimum limits can be done affordably — compared to adding comprehensive and collision insurance to an auto policy, it’s an inexpensive way to ensure you’re not left financially underwater following an accident.

Kristine Lee LinkedIn

Kristine is a licensed insurance agent and one of The Zebra’s in-house content strategists. With a background in copywriting, she covers the ins and outs of the home and car insurance industries. She has been a contributor to numerous publications focused on the nuances of insurance, including BestCompany.com.

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