IN PLAIN ENGLISH

Liability car insurance definition & basics

Liability insurance coverage protects other drivers from bodily injury or property damage you might cause in an at-fault accident. We'll review liability insurance thoroughly in the following guide, answering the following questions:

  • What does liability insurance cover?
  • How much liabiliity auto insurance should you have?
  • How much does liability car coverage cost?

Liability coverage is defined by two key coverages: bodily injury and property damage protection. The amount of liability coverage you carry depends on personal preference and laws in your state. Because car insurance is regulated at the state level, each state sets minimum policy limits for liability coverage.

Basic liability car insurance options look like this:

 

50 / 100 /  50
$50,000 in bodily injury coverage per person $100,000 in bodily injury coverage per incident $50,000 in property damage per incident

 


What doesn't liability insurance cover?

While liability insurance is mandatory in most states, it’s not the only coverage you should carry.

Some things aren't covered by liability insurance:

  • Collision Coverage: If you drive a valuable vehicle, i.e., worth more than $4,000, consider adding this coverage to protect your vehicle from damage by striking a fixed object (such as a wall or another vehicle)
  • Comprehensive Coverage: Usually paired with collision coverage, comprehensive coverage protects your vehicle from incidents not covered by collision coverage. This includes theft, vandalism, or animal damage.
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: This coverage protects you and your vehicle from damage done by a driver without insurance — or someone with insufficient insurance. Like liability coverage, it is broken down into property damage and bodily coverage options. This coverage can also apply if you're injurid by a hit-and-run driver.
  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP): This add-on provides assistance for medical expenses and work loss coverage after an accident, independent of fault. If you don’t have health insurance, PIP is worth considering. This insurance policy is commonly coupled with no-fault insurance.

 

How much liability insurance do you need?

Each state has its own mandatory liabiility insurance minimums. While we’ve listed mandatory minimum liability insurance by state at the end of this section, it's often a good idea to carry more than the minimum. Although you might save a few bucks by dropping coverage, it's not recommended to maintain minimal liability car insurance coverage because:

  • You are responsible for any remaining damage not covered by your insurance
  • You appear as high-risk to insurance companies

You’re responsible for any damages not covered by your liability coverage:

Because some states have very low liability limits, you end up responsible for any damage not covered by your insurance. Let's say you’re a California resident who totals another driver's 2018 Ford F150 — listed at $27,705 — in an at-fault accident. In California, mandatory minimum liability car insurance covers $5,000. You would be responsible for the remaining $22,705. Depending on your financial situation, this could be a tricky hole to climb out of.


You appear as a risk to insurance companies:

Carrying your state’s minimum liability coverage not only leaves you on the hook for any damages left over from a claim, but also stands out as a red flag for insurers. If you elect to carry high liability limits, you shoulder some of the insurance company's financial responsibility and risk. If you carry the bare minimum liability car insurance, you pass more risk along to the insurer — leading to more expensive premiums, in many cases. 

  

6mo with State Min Bi Limits 6mo with 50/100 Bi Limits 6mo with 100/300 Bi Limits
$1,568 $1,495 $1,465

 

To avoid higher rates, consider keeping your liability coverage at 100/300/100, if possible.


How much does liability car insurance cost?

The price of liability insurance depends on several factors. Based on the US average with a standard vehicle and driving profile, the cost difference between minimum liability limit coverage and "full coverage" is approximately $180 per year. 

 

State Minimum 50/100 Limits 100/300 Limits
$581 $672 $761


While your liability coverage makes up half of your premium if you also carry collision and comprehensive coverage, there’s less of a difference between the amount of liability limits. 

 

 State-by-State Breakdown by Minimum Liability Limits

 


State

 Bodily Injury: Per Person   Bodily Injury: Per Accident   Property Damage 
Alabama 25k 50k 25k
Alaska 50k 100k 25k
Arizona 15k 30k 10k
Arkansas 25k 50k 25k
California 15k 30k 5k
Colorado 25k 50k 15k
Connecticut 20k 40k 10k
Delaware 15k 30k 10k
Florida 10k 20k 10k
Georgia 25k 50k 25k
Hawaii 20k 40k 10k
Idaho 25k 50k 15k
Illinois 25k 50k 20k
Indiana 25k 50k 10k
Iowa 20k 40k 15k
Kansas 25k 50k 10k
Kentucky 25k 50k 10k
Louisiana 15k 30k 25k
Maine 50k 100k 25k
Maryland 30k 60k 15k
Massachusetts 20k 40k 5k
Michigan 20k 40k 10k
Minnesota 30k 60k 10k
Mississippi 25k 50k 25k
Missouri 25k 50k 10k
Montana 25k 50k 10k
Nebraska 25k 50k 25k
Nevada 15k 30k 10k
 New Hampshire  25k 50k 25k
New Jersey 15k 30k 5k
New Mexico 25k 50k 10k
New York 25k 50k 10k
North Carolina 30k 60k 25k
North Dakota 25k 50k 25k
Ohio 25k 50k 25k
Oklahoma 25k 50k 25k
Oregon 25k 50k 20k
Pennsylvania 15k 30k 5k
Rhode Island 25k 50k 25k
South Carolina 25k 50k 25k
South Dakota 25k 50k 25k
Tennessee 25k 50k 15k
Texas 30k 60k 25k
Utah 25k 65k 15k
Vermont 25k 50k 10k
Virginia 25k 50k 20k
Washington 25k 50k 10k
Washington DC 25k 50k 10k
West Virginia 20k 40k 10k
Wisconsin 25k 50k 10k
Wyoming 25k 100k 20k

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