Most states have compulsory car insurance laws that require a minimum amount of auto liability insurance to drive. States have mandatory liability insurance limits to offer financial protection in the event of injury or property damage after a car accident.
The amounts of liability coverage required are often put into a split-limit format of bodily injury liability per person, bodily injury liability per accident and property damage coverage. Some states require additional coverage, such as uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. It’s a good idea to get the full scope of the liability insurance you’re required to buy when you’re working out your auto insurance policy with your insurer. This article will cover:
- Minimum required auto insurance liability limits
- Why you should purchase higher liability coverage limits
- How much car insurance liability coverage to buy
What is the minimum amount of liability car insurance required?
The dollar amount of auto liability insurance coverage you need in order to be street legal varies depending on the state where you live, but the liability types required are usually consistent. The three types of liability insurance coverage required by law are:
- Bodily injury liability per person: This is the maximum amount your auto insurance provider will pay towards medical expenses for an individual you injure in a car accident.
- Bodily injury liability per accident: Your auto insurer’s payout limit towards medical expenses for everyone you injure in a car accident.
- Property damage coverage: The most your auto insurer will pay for damages to vehicles or other property after a car crash.
Some states require you to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance coverage as well. Check with your auto insurance provider to find out if your state mandates it.
It should be noted that some states have alternatives that may be available if you don’t want to buy auto insurance. New Hampshire, for example, does not require you to purchase auto insurance. However, you must be financially responsible for injury or property damage resulting from a car accident for which you’re at fault. And Virginia allows you to register as an uninsured driver for an annual fee. Doing so provides no sort of liability coverage. In most states, however, you need to have car insurance.
While these may be alternatives to buying auto insurance, none of them provide the return on investment that a car insurance policy can. Do some research and compare auto insurance quotes. Chances are you can find good coverage at a decent price.
The following table shows each state’s auto insurance liability minimums broken down into split limits of bodily injury per person, bodily injury per accident and personal property damage.
|State||Minimum liability insurance|
|District of Columbia||25/50/10|
|New Hampshire||Car insurance is not required in NH, but 25/50/25 is the minimum policy|
You should get more car insurance than the minimum liability limit
The amount of car liability insurance your state requires rarely equals how much coverage you may actually need. State minimums are relatively low — not because car insurance requirements stay the same, but because states rarely update their insurance requirements as time passes. This may create an insurance coverage gap if you only go with the required limits.
You should consider higher auto insurance liability limits than what your state mandates. Otherwise, there could be some severe financial consequences. For instance, say your state’s payout limit per person is $25,000, and the payout limit per accident is $50,000. This may be adequate if only one person is injured, but if we could control such things, then auto insurance wouldn’t be needed. If three people were injured in the accident, for a total of $75,000, this leaves you $25,000 in the hole.
How much car insurance liability coverage should I get?
We recommend going with a 100/300/100 limit. This means getting $100,000 bodily injury liability per person, $300,00 bodily injury liability per accident and $100,000 for property damage. Discuss raising your liability limits with your car insurance company. It often doesn’t cost you much more to get the liability insurance limits that you need.
If you need higher liability limits than what your auto insurer’s standard coverage provides, look into getting an umbrella policy. An umbrella policy can provide coverage beyond your standard limits of bodily injury and property damage liability, among other things. This is especially advisable if you have a lot of assets, which could be seized to pay medical expenses in the event of an accident that goes beyond your policy limits.
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