How does auto liability insurance work?
You’ll usually see your liability coverage broken into three separate numbers that indicate your liability limits for bodily injury and property damage (the minimum limits required vary by state). For example, the minimum limits for auto liability in Illinois are $25,000/$50,000/$20,000. Here’s what those numbers mean:
- Bodily injury per person: $25,000 is the maximum amount your insurance company will pay out for injuries per person.
- Bodily injury per accident: $50,000 is the maximum amount your insurer will pay out for injuries per accident.
- Property damage per accident: $20,000 is the maximum amount your insurer will pay out for damage to someone else’s vehicle or property per accident.
Consider the two scenarios below, assuming your liability limits are $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident, and $20,000 for property damage.
You hit another driver and cause them $20,000 in injuries and $15,000 in property damage. Your insurance should pay both amounts because all injuries and damage fall below your coverage limits.
You’re at fault in a car crash, but it’s a bit more complicated because you injured the driver and two passengers. All three have $25,000 in injuries, totaling $75,000. You might think you’re covered because you have $25,000 in bodily injury per person. However, $50,000 is the maximum your insurer will pay out per accident based on your coverage. You’re now on the hook for the remaining $25,000.
What does auto liability insurance cover?
If you’re at fault in an accident, your liability limits pay for damages and injuries you cause to others, including:
- Damage to other cars
- Damage to property (mailbox, house, street sign, guardrail, etc.)
- Injuries to other drivers/passengers/pedestrians
- Lawsuits and attorney/court fees
Do I need auto liability insurance?
Yes, auto liability coverage is required in nearly every state. However, the amount of coverage you’re required to have varies widely between states.
How much auto liability insurance do I need?
If you’re liable in an accident, a court judgment could cost you your life savings, so you’ll want to make sure you’re well-covered. Add up your assets, including bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts, as well as equity in your home and other property. Then, subtract your debts to get your total net worth. Consider choosing at least that amount for bodily injury liability, as your total net worth can grow. Keep in mind, bodily injury typically results in more expensive claims than property damage.
Note that the cost of bodily injury liability will vary by coverage amount and per driver, and the difference between the state minimum price and $100,000 is often minimal. Get more tips on figuring out how much car insurance you need. Our car insurance estimator can also give you an idea of what coverage level is right for you.
Choosing more liability coverage than you're legally required to have is generally a good idea, and a popular one. 57% of Progressive customers choose more than their state's minimum limits for bodily injury, and 61% of customers choose more property damage coverage than their state requires.
Consider a combined single limit (CSL) if you have a high net worth
If you have a high net worth, it might be worth taking out an auto policy with a CSL for both bodily injury and property damage. CSL amounts usually range between $300,000 and $500,000. Premiums for a CSL policy are higher, but your coverage limit can be divided in whichever way necessary to satisfy a claim against you.
You have a split-limit policy that covers bodily injury up to $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. However, you cause an accident in which you’re liable for $120,000 in medical expenses for one individual, leaving you on the hook for $20,000. With a combined single limit of $300,000, your insurance would cover the full $120,000, since your maximum limit of $300,000 applies to any type of liability claim.
Get the right auto liability coverage from Progressive
New Progressive customers
Call 1-866-749-7436 or quote car insurance online and we can help you choose the right liability coverage for your needs.
Current Progressive customers
Log in to your policy or call us at 1-866-749-7436 and make changes to your current liability limits if you need to.
Please note: The above is meant as general information to help you understand the different aspects of insurance. This information is not an insurance policy, does not refer to any specific insurance policy, and does not modify any provisions, limitations, or exclusions expressly stated in any insurance policy. Descriptions of all coverages and other features on this page are necessarily brief; in order to fully understand the coverages and other features of a specific insurance policy, we encourage you to read the applicable policy and/or speak to an insurance representative. Coverages and other features vary between insurers, vary by state, and are not available in all states. Whether an accident or other loss is covered is subject to the terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in the claim. References to average or typical premiums, amounts of losses, deductibles, costs of coverages/repair, etc., are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. We are not responsible for the content of any third-party sites linked from this page.