What is the Difference Between Bodily Injury vs Personal Injury?
Insurance companies define personal injury as any injury, including physical, mental, or emotional harm that a person suffers after an incident. Bodily injury is a subset of a personal injury that only includes physical injuries, disease, and sickness of an individual.
Let us explore this topic of personal injury and bodily injury to help you understand the details and how to buy liability insurance that gives you the best financial protection for claims against you.
What is Bodily Injury?
The term bodily injury refers to physical injury to the body, an illness, or a disease suffered by someone and death. It is defined in Coverage E, Personal Liability, on your homeowners policy, and it includes bodily damage liability coverage and property injury liability coverage for other people.
Some bodily injuries in insurance policies also include psychological injuries, such as mental anguish, only if this mental injury results from a physical injury caused by the incident in the insurance claim.
What Does Bodily Injury Liability Cover?
Bodily injury coverage on your homeowners policy pays for other people's medical bills and lost wages when they are a result of injuries caused by you or your property.
Bodily injury on your car insurance covers short and long-term expenses of the other driver or passenger's injuries in an accident. It also includes pedestrians and bystanders who sustain injuries from the accident.
State law mandates that drivers have a minimum limit of bodily injury liability insurance, e.g., $15,000/person and $30,000/accident. If your budget permits, we recommend a much higher minimum amount than your state requires, so you are not personally exposed to out of pocket expenses.
What is a Personal Injury?
Personal injury is broader than bodily injury. It is the term used as the basis for a claim when someone suffers harm from another person's negligence or intentional acts. It includes physical, mental, and financial harm caused to a person from an incident or accident.
The types of injuries included in personal injuries are:
- Wrongful Eviction
- Invasion of Privacy
- False Arrest
- Mental Anguish
- Alienation of Affections
- Malicious Prosecution
- Detention or Imprisonment
- Illegal Detainment
- Suffering from Identity Theft
A personal injury includes more than just physical damage, e.g., harming a person's reputation from libel and slander. Another example is mental anguish your child experienced after being bullied by a schoolmate.
What Does Personal Injury Liability Cover?
Personal injury liability covers any harm done to a person(s) who is involved in an accident or incident. Injuries include all physical injuries covered in a bodily injury claim plus mental, emotional, or financial harm.
Do not confuse personal injury with personal liability on a homeowners insurance policy; they are not the same. Personal liability, a basic coverage on standard homeowners policies, includes medical liability coverage and coverage for personal property damage. Your liability coverage does not include personal injury, although you can add a personal injury endorsement to your homeowners policy.
You may have personal injury protection (PIP) with your auto insurance. PIP insurance is the term widely used in auto insurance claims, and it typically includes physical, mental, and financial damages caused to an injured person.
Understand Your Policy to Know When You Are NOT Covered
Not all insurance policies are the same, and many often use vague and confusing terminology. In the worst-case scenario, vague language might mean you have a lot less coverage than you initially thought.
Policy limits are critically important. Your policy might include the following terms:
- Per-person limit. This insurance coverage pays for your legal defense and injury costs and lawsuit settlements per person. When multiple people are involved in the same incident and pursue bodily injury claims, the coverage limit applies to each one. E.g., if your balcony collapses during a dinner party and five (5) people are injured, and your policy limit is $100,000 per person, you have up to $100,000 to cover each person's claim, a total of $500,000.
- Per-accident limit. On the other hand, if you have per-accident coverage of $100,000, you have a maximum amount of $100,000 to cover the claims of all five (5) people. A per-accident limit can leave you exposed to large out of pocket expenses. The per-accident limit can also be called a per-occurrence limit.
- Aggregate limits. Sometimes policies limit the total amount of claim payouts you can have over a lifetime.
- Yearly limits. Sometimes policies limit the total amount of claim payouts you can have within a 12-month cycle or calendar year.
Your policy may include exclusions:
- Expected or intended exclusions. If you expected or intended an outcome during an act, your coverage excludes the claim. If you have COVID-19 and invite a friend over, courts consider that willful harm, but your insurance will not cover the claim because of the exclusion.
- Willful and malicious exclusions. If you have a heated exchange with a neighbor about his menacing dog and in a fit of anger you kick the dog and break its ribs, your policy will not cover you if your neighbor files a lawsuit.
Other instances that are not covered:
- Death from unexplained causes is typically not covered.
- If you are at fault, bodily injury insurance does not cover your lost wages or medical bills.
- Personal injury losses, like slander and libel, are not covered by your homeowners insurance. You can, however, purchase a personal injury endorsement to add protection for personal injury losses. An umbrella policy will also cover personal injury losses.
Examples of Bodily Injury vs. Personal Injury
Examples of bodily injury include things that may happen if you are involved in an accident such as fractures, strains, concussions, cuts, bruises, whiplash, soft-tissue damage, etc. Within auto insurance, all these physical bodily injuries are ALSO potential personal injury claims.
Severe bodily injury includes things that require an emergency hospital visit, such as a skull fracture, a gunshot wound, broken hips, severe blood loss, and any physical trauma to the body that is life-threatening.
A bodily injury could happen if:
- A child gets pushed off your backyard swing set.
- Your handyman falls from the attic ladder.
- Grandma, unsupervised, motors her wheelchair outside the nursing home, and she suffered a fatal accident when her wheelchair tipped off the ramp's ledge.
- Your neighbor cuts himself on an Exacto knife you left in the yard.
Personal injury is an all-inclusive legal term regarding ANY harm to a person, which covers many more things than bodily injury.
Examples of personal injury that are NOT limited to just a physical bodily injury may also include other types of damages and suffering, such as:
- Emotional anguish after your son posted drone videos on social media of a neighbor privately sunbathing
- Illegal discrimination and hate crimes
- Lost wages and depression after severe bodily injuries from a car accident
- Fear and stress caused by harassment
- Depression and ongoing therapy after a helper lost their leg in a remodel accident
- Financial damages caused by identity theft
- Pain and suffering from an ice patch slip and fall on your doorsteps
- Destroying the reputation of a neighbor whom you falsely disparaged in the community, hence, libel and slander
Another difference between bodily injury vs. personal injury is how legal matters use the terms. The terms can have different meanings in court, which certainly makes it confusing for insurers and people dealing with both insurance claims and the legal system.
In criminal trials for violent crimes, such as assault, a bodily injury may describe what happened to a victim when attacked by the perpetrator, e.g., you get beaten in a bar fight started by someone else.
In personal injury law, personal injury is a phrase that is more likely to be used in a civil matter, such as a judgment award for wrongful death in a personal injury case. You file a personal injury case against a person or entity that causes you harm.
Your best shot of winning a case is hiring a personal injury attorney to help you; 70% of lawsuits filed by an attorney close in the claimant's favor vs. 50% that do not use an attorney.
The first step after you file a personal injury claim or a lawsuit is to prove the duty of care was the responsibility of the person you are suing. Duty of care refers to a person's responsibility to avoid causing harm to someone else. Your personal injury lawyer must prove the harm you experienced was caused by reckless conduct, negligence or gross negligence, or intentional misconduct by the other party.
There are statutes of limitations to file your lawsuit. Check your state for its time limits -- e.g., in New York, the law is three years from the time of the incident.
At your service,