Bodily injury

Bodily injury is harm caused to a person’s physical condition, including pain and illness.

A woman tripping over her rug

What is bodily injury?

Sometimes called physical injury, bodily injury is physical damage caused to a person’s body. Types of bodily injury include:

  • Fractures.
  • Abrasions.
  • Bruises.
  • Illness.
  • Disease.
  • Cuts.
  • Disfigurement.
  • Impairment of function.
  • Internal bleeding.

What is bodily injury liability?

Bodily injury liability is when you’re responsible for a third party’s physical injury. Most people are familiar with the term because of their auto insurance. Most states require auto owners to carry bodily injury liability coverage to pay for other people’s injuries, lost wages, and even funeral expenses if they are at fault in an auto accident.

The coverage in your homeowners' insurance works very similarly. While not required by law, most standard policies include personal liability coverage (Coverage E). This means homeowners don’t have to worry about the costs of third-party claims that the homeowner or their family members are responsible for someone else’s injuries.

What does bodily injury liability cover?

The bodily injury liability coverage in your homeowners' insurance helps pay the costs associated with accidental injuries to other parties, such as the injured party’s

  • Medical expenses, such as emergency room visits and hospital stays.
  • Lost wages if the injury keeps the person from working.
  • Pain and suffering if awarded by the court.
  • Death benefits to cover funeral costs.

If you’re found liable for another person’s bodily injury, your coverage helps with these expenses whether the injury took place on your property or not.

Bodily injury coverage examples

Your personal liability coverage kicks in for bodily injury in both common and unusual circumstances. However, one of the key components is the idea of negligence. The injured party usually has to show that you somehow failed to meet a standard of reasonable care﹘essentially, what any sensible person would do to reduce the likelihood of accidents.

Below are a few examples of how Coverage E protects you in bodily injury claims.

Accidental slip-and-falls

Let’s say a neighbor decides to stop by for a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, they slip on the icy walk leading up to your house and break their hip. The injury leads to an ER visit, surgery, and rehabilitation, so your neighbor sues to recoup these costs. This triggers the personal injury coverage in your home insurance policy because you still have to defend yourself whether or not you were actually negligent. And if your neighbor shows you were negligent﹘because, say, you took too long to remove the ice﹘then your policy may cover the court-awarded settlement.

Dog bites

In this scenario, you have a dog that bites someone. State laws often make you liable for your dog’s actions regardless of what led up to the incident. Some, however, place the responsibility for the bite on you in certain situations, like if you knew the dog was aggressive or were supposed to keep it on a leash.

Coverage E can pay for the victim’s medical bills if your state’s laws make you liable for the bite. However, some carriers exclude dog bites, so you may need an animal liability endorsement.

Injured burglars

You read that headline correctly. It’s bad enough when someone breaks into your home to steal from you, but what happens if the burglar gets injured while on your property? Technically, the burglar can sue﹘in which case, your home insurance would cover your defense but their chance of winning is low.

While homeowners are expected to maintain a safe property, they generally only owe a duty of care to people they either invite in or grant permission to. Burglars, however, are trespassers and homeowners have no obligation to protect trespassers except if they know there are trespassers on their property.

What bodily injury does not cover

Personal liability covers most injuries that people suffer due to your actions. However, the incident needs to be accidental. If you intentionally hurt someone, your insurance may not pay the claims. For example, your insurance carrier will most likely deny a claim that involves you punching someone. If the person you punched sues for their bodily injuries, you will have to pay for them out of your own pocket.

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