What is the Difference Between Personal Injury & Bodily Injury?


Sometimes, it feels like you need a law degree to understand what’s covered by an auto insurance policy. With so many different categories, limits, and types of coverage, it’s difficult to know what you get in return for your monthly premium. This takes on even more importance when you find yourself in an auto accident involving an injury.

What is Personal Injury Protection?

Personal injury protection (PIP) in an auto insurance policy covers medical expenses for yourself, your passengers, and (if applicable) any pedestrians that you strike in a car accident. Personal injury protection covers these expenses regardless of who is at fault for the accident.

The full extent of medical expenses covered by personal injury protection coverage depends on the policy, but a standard policy should cover everything related to the accident — ambulance transportation, hospital bills, doctor visits, therapy, rehabilitation, medication, etc. In some cases, personal injury protection may even cover funeral expenses when the car accident results in a fatality.

Note that your individual health insurance policy will cover many of these same charges. In fact, individual health insurance is the primary insurer in personal injury situations, so they get the bill first. Personal injury protection under your auto insurance policy is only intended to cover the charges that individual health insurance does not cover, such as co-pays and deductibles. For example, if you have a $1,000 deductible and 80-20 health insurance (the insurer pays 80%, you pay 20%), your auto insurance would reimburse you for the $1,000 deductible and the 20% of remaining charges that your health insurance policy doesn’t cover.

Examples of Personal Injury

Let’s say you’re driving down the road during the winter, hit a patch of black ice, and slide off the road into a wall. You’re fortunate enough to walk away without any injuries, but your spouse in the passenger seat is injured, and a pedestrian who dove out of the way injured their arm. If your auto insurance policy’s personal injury protection coverage has a $100,000 limit, your insurer would cover the medical charges for your injured spouse and the pedestrian up to that limit. Anything over that limit would be your personal responsibility.

In another example, let’s say you’re driving alone and another vehicle crashes into your car. You and the other driver are the only parties involved (no passengers), and both parties are seriously injured. In this case, your personal injury protection would cover your medical charges, but it would not cover the other driver’s. That would fall under your bodily injury coverage.   

What is Bodily Injury Liability?

Bodily injury liability coverage is required by law in most states. When you injure one or more people in a car accident and you’re determined to be at fault, your bodily injury liability coverage will pay for their medical expenses and lost income. If the injured parties file a personal lawsuit against you, your bodily injury liability coverage can help pay for your legal fees, too.

For example, let’s say you run a red light and crash into a vehicle making a left-hand turn. As you ran the red light and the other driver had a green light, you’re fully at fault for the accident. When the injured driver files a personal injury lawsuit against you to recover damages, your bodily injury liability coverage would pay for the damages up to the specified limit. As long as the settlement or judgement doesn’t exceed the limit, your auto insurance would cover the full payment including legal fees.

What is Covered Under Bodily Injury?

Let’s flip the conversation and consider bodily injury from the perspective of the injured driver or passenger who is not at fault for the accident. After you have received proper medical attention and assessed the damages from the accident, you can file a bodily injury claim with the other driver’s insurance company to recover the following:

  • Medical expenses – including ambulance costs, hospital bills, doctor visits, therapy, rehabilitation, in-home care, prescription medications, crutches, a wheelchair, etc.
  • Compensation for lost income – when an auto accident results in an injured victim missing work — whether it’s for a hospital stay, follow-up visits to the doctor, or recovery time — the victim is entitled to payment to make up for lost income.
  • Legal fees – whether you pay for a simple legal consultation or retain the services of an attorney to represent you, these costs should be covered by bodily injury coverage.

How to File a Bodily Injury Claim

Claiming bodily injury in a car accident is easier than you think. It can be a long process, but it’s easily navigable with the assistance of an experienced attorney. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Seek medical attention – you should always visit a hospital or doctor after a car accident, even if you feel fine and don’t see any visible injuries. Not only is this important for your personal health, but it provides documentation of injuries sustained from the accident. If you wait too long to see a doctor before discovering a problem, it may be difficult to prove the injury resulted from the accident.
  2. Document your injuries – whether you visit a hospital, urgent care facility, doctor, or chiropractor, you need a detailed assessment of your injuries and condition. 
  3. Gather your medical bills – after your personal health insurance plan covers their portion of the associated medical bills, you should begin to receive bills in the mail. Don’t pay these until you speak with your attorney. In many cases, you’ll want to refrain from paying these until the settlement or final judgement comes through. For now, make copies of the bills and keep them in a safe place.
  4. Calculate lost income – keep track of the time you’ve had to take off of work, and calculate the financial impact.
  5. Consult with an attorney – now that you have a clear picture of the damages stemming from your accident, it’s time to discuss your case with a personal injury attorney. The attorney will assess the potential damages, and should you decide to retain their services they will help you prepare the proper paperwork to file the bodily injury claim. Depending on the extent of your damages, you may also choose to file a civil lawsuit for damages.

Receive Help With Your Personal or Bodily Injury Claim in Arizona

If you received a personal or bodily injury due to someone else’s negligence and are in need of legal representation, please contact the JacksonWhite personal injury team. Our lead attorney, Jared E. Everton, offers a wide array of personal injury services, specializing in victims of car accidents. JacksonWhite has helped dozens of Arizonas with their personal injury needs and offer a free case evaluation. Don’t wait, get started today!

Call our Personal Injury team at (480) 467-4392 to discuss your case today.

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