From small fender benders to major accidents, liability insurance covers the cost of bodily injury and property damage for the other car and its passengers when you’re found at fault for a collision. Each state has different minimum requirements for coverage, which leaves many drivers wondering: How much liability insurance do I need?
In this guide, we’ll dive into how much liability insurance is required in each state, what liability insurance covers, other coverage you may want to purchase, and the best auto insurance companies for great liability insurance.
You can start getting liability coverage quotes from multiple low-cost providers by using the free tool below.
In this article:
- What Is Liability Insurance?
- Liability Insurance Requirements By State
- Should You Get More Than Your State’s Minimum Requirement?
- Cost Of Liability Insurance
- Other Types Of Car Insurance
- Our Recommendations For Liability Insurance
What Is Liability Insurance?
As its name suggests, liability insurance covers damages that you are liable for. If you are found at fault for an accident, your liability insurance will cover repair bills for other vehicles and medical bills for other people involved in the collision.
Liability car insurance does not, however, cover your own property damages or medical costs. You’ll need additional insurance to cover your expenses after an accident you cause, but we’ll get into this a little later.
Let’s take a look at the two main types of liability insurance and what each covers.
Bodily Injury Liability Insurance
All states except New Hampshire, Virginia, and Florida require bodily injury liability insurance, or BI. This type of auto insurance typically covers the other party for:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages from missed work due to the accident
- Pain and suffering related to the accident
- Legal fees if the case goes to court
Property Damage Insurance
Similar to BI, property damage insurance, or PD, covers damages made to the other party’s property when you’re at fault for an accident. Though PD is typically used to cover repair bills for vehicles, it may also cover other damaged property such as a neighbor’s fence, garage door, or lawn.
What If You Live In A No-Fault State?
It’s important to note that the method for determining who is at fault for an accident differs depending on the state where you’re driving when the accident occurs. In no-fault states, each driver primarily consults with their own car insurance company after the accident, no matter who is at fault. These states also place restrictions on lawsuits and typically require personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, which covers your own damages no matter who caused the accident.
Many no-fault states still require liability insurance because someone can still sue for damages in the event of serious injury. In some states, drivers have the option to choose liability insurance over the no-fault system. Be sure to check your state laws or speak with your car insurance company if you have questions.
Liability Insurance Requirements By State
How much liability insurance do you need to meet legal requirements? This depends on where you live and where you frequently drive. Though there are no federal laws mandating car insurance in the United States, each state sets its own limits.
All states in the U.S. require liability car insurance, except for Virginia and New Hampshire. However, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III), most drivers in these areas still purchase insurance. If you opt not to get insurance in Virginia, you’ll need to pay a $500 annual uninsured motorist fee. In New Hampshire, you’ll need to prove that you meet the state’s financial responsibility requirements before driving uninsured.
You’ll see car insurance companies and states use three numbers to break down bodily injury and property damage limits. For example, if you see a 25/50/20 auto insurance policy, it will cover up to $25,000 per person in bodily injury liability, $50,000 per accident in bodily injury liability, and $20,000 in property damage liability coverage.
We’ve included a state-by-state chart from the III so you can find your own liability insurance minimums.
|State||Required Car Insurance||Bodily Injury and Property Damage Minimum Limits|
|Connecticut||BI/PD, UM, UIM||25/50/20|
|Washington, D.C.||BI/PD, UM||25/50/10|
|Illinois||BI/PD, UM, UIM||25/50/20|
|Kentucky||BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|Maine||BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM, MedPay||50/100/25|
|Maryland||BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM||30/60/15|
|Minnesota||BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM||30/60/10|
|Nebraska||BI/PD, UM UIM||25/50/25|
|New Hampshire||Financial responsibility only||25/50/25*|
|New Jersey||BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM||15/30/5|
|New York||BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM||25/50/10|
|North Carolina||BI/PD, UM, UIM||30/60/25|
|North Dakota||BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|Oregon||BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM||25/50/20|
|South Carolina||BI/PD, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|South Dakota||BI/PD, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|Vermont||BI/PD, UM, UIM||25/50/10|
|Virginia||BI/PD, UM, UIM||25/50/20*|
|West Virginia||BI/PD, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|Wisconsin||BI/PD, UM, MedPay||25/50/10|
*In states without requirements for BI and/or PD, data represents the minimum amount motorists without insurance are responsible for in the case of an accident.
Should You Get More Than Your State’s Minimum Requirement?
When choosing auto insurance limits, you’ll need to meet your state’s minimum requirements listed above. But how much liability insurance do you need beyond that?
We recommend going above the state-required minimums, as they rarely cover the average cost of an accident. Although added coverage can come with slightly higher premiums, it could save you thousands in the long run if you’re at fault for an accident.
You can take a look at the average cost of a car accident liability claim in your state. Less-populated states or areas without dense cities may need lower liability coverage than those with an abundance of high-end cars and packed roads.
We recommend speaking with an insurance representative on the phone or in person about the best liability insurance limits for your lifestyle. The right company should be able to provide expert-level advice on how much insurance makes sense for your financial situation, location, and driving habits.
Cost Of Liability Insurance
The majority of insurers offer a basic car insurance package with optional add-ons. Depending on where you live, the minimum liability insurance is almost always included in these basic coverage plans.
The price of liability car insurance is different for every driver. This is because there are many factors that go into the final cost, such as your driving record, age, and your vehicle’s details. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), the average premium expenditure for liability coverage in the U.S. was $611.12 in 2017.
Keep in mind, however, that typical plans often cover more than liability insurance, including collision or comprehensive coverage depending on whether you own or lease your car, your preferences, and your state laws.
Other Types Of Car Insurance
If you’re in a car accident, you’ll want to make sure your own needs are covered. Sometimes, vehicle incidents don’t even involve another driver, like if you accidentally roll into your garage door or a sudden hailstorm dents your vehicle’s body. This is why it’s helpful to have additional insurance like medical coverage, compensated loss of work, or coverage to fix damages to your own car or property.
In addition to liability insurance, consider the following auto insurance coverages to protect your assets and yourself:
- Collision: Collision insurance is standard car insurance coverage that pays for your own property damages when you cause an accident.
- Comprehensive: Comprehensive car insurance goes beyond traditional car accidents involving another vehicle, covering costs that result from natural events or theft and vandalism.
- Personal injury protection (PIP): Similar to bodily injury liability insurance, PIP covers medical expenses, lost wages, and household care costs for yourself and anyone in your own car. This covers you no matter who is at fault and is traditionally required in a no-fault state.
- Medical payments (MedPay): Medical payments coverage, often abbreviated as MedPay, covers your own medical costs no matter your health insurance availability. This is less comprehensive than PIP, but it’s often a good complement to liability insurance in traditional at-fault states.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM): This insurance protects your wallet if another person causes an accident but does not carry enough (or any) car insurance.
- Guaranteed asset protection (GAP) coverage: If you experience a total loss after an accident, GAP insurance pays for the difference between what you owe on the car and its depreciated value.
- Rental car/travel insurance: This add-on covers up to a certain time and dollar limit of rental car costs so you can stay moving when you need to repair or replace your own car.
- Rideshare insurance: Though companies like Uber and Lyft offer their own coverage, many professional drivers purchase extra coverage for their vehicle, especially if they also use their car for personal use.
Our Recommendations For Liability Insurance
Liability insurance will be one of your most important assets should you get into a car accident, especially in a traditional at-fault state. When shopping around for the best policy, compare both prices and reviews of how each company handles at-fault claims.
To start getting free, personalized liability auto insurance quotes from our top providers and other insurers, use the tool below.
USAA: 5.0 Stars
Topping our list of the best auto insurers of 2020 is USAA, a highly trustworthy company with extensive insurance offerings. It’s important to note that USAA is only available to active and former military members and their immediate families.
Highlights of choosing USAA car insurance include:
- The company has received top ratings from AM Best and J.D. Power.
- For an additional fee, you can keep your premiums from rising after your first at-fault accident.
- USAA offers affordable rates and many discount opportunities.
You can read more in our full USAA insurance review.
Progressive: 4.5 Stars
Progressive auto insurance scores highly in each of our review categories but performs especially well when it comes to great coverage options. In addition to basic liability insurance, Progressive offers a long list of coverage to personalize your policy for your budget and driving habits.
A few highlights of Progressive include:
- The company is very attentive and transparent about its reviews and complaints online, clarifying any complications with claims and raised rates.
- It offers unique programs including custom parts coverage, roadside assistance, and rental insurance when your car is in the shop.
- Progressive’s Snapshot® mobile app tracks your driving habits to reward good driving and potentially give usage-based discounts.
To learn more, check out our complete Progressive insurance review.
Geico: 4.5 Stars
As one of the most highly respected car insurance providers in the country, Geico is a safe place to start when shopping for liability insurance. Like many companies, Geico allows you to purchase just your state’s liability insurance minimums or extend coverage further for additional fees.
Here are some highlights of Geico auto insurance:
- The company’s claims process earned third place in the 2019 J.D. Power U.S. Auto Claims Satisfaction StudySM.
- On average, Geico offers cheaper premiums than other top providers.
- You can get discounts on insurance premiums for things like defensive driving courses, vehicle safety features, and good driving habits.
Find out more about liability insurance with this provider in our comprehensive Geico insurance review.
In an effort to provide accurate and unbiased information to consumers, our expert review team collects data from dozens of auto insurance providers to formulate rankings of the best insurers. Companies receive a score in each of the following categories, as well as an overall weighted score out of 5.0 stars.
- Industry Standing: Insurers with strong financial ratings and customer-first business practices receive the highest scores in this category.
- Availability: We consider availability by state as well as exclusions for specific groups of drivers.
- Coverage: This rating is based on types of insurance available, maximum coverage limits, and add-on policies.
- Cost and Discounts: Our research team reviews sample quotes for a variety of drivers in every state. Companies with lower prices and many car insurance discount opportunities receive the best scores.
- Customer Service: We comb through customer reviews and consumer feedback studies from experts like J.D. Power.
- Technology: Auto insurers with mobile apps, advanced online services and telematics are more likely to meet consumer needs.