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California Bodily Injury Liability Insurance

A pedestrian accident can turn a quick walk to the store or a morning jog into a nightmare. Without the protection afforded by a vehicle, a person on foot is always the loser in a collision with a car or truck. California is one of five states that, together, account for 47% of pedestrian deaths in the United States.

In most cases, the pedestrian isn’t at fault in a pedestrian accident. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, distracted driving, illegal turns, and refusing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks factor into many pedestrian accidents.

If you were hit by a car while walking, it most likely took some time for the initial shock to wear off and for you to seek medical attention. But afterward, you may wonder, “Will I have to pay for these medical bills?”

Section 17150 of the California Vehicle Code (CVC) says, “Every owner of a motor vehicle is liable and responsible for death or injury to person or property resulting from a negligent or wrongful act or omission in the operation of the motor vehicle.” In other words, the person that causes an accident is responsible for costs related to:

  • Property damage
  • Injuries
  • Fatalities

Motor vehicle liability insurance protects drivers from the need to pay for these costs out of pocket—but only if they have adequate coverage.

In this blog, we’ll cover the basics of bodily injury liability coverage (BILC), how it fits into the overall picture of auto insurance coverage, and what role it might play in a pedestrian accident in Bakersfield.

What Is Bodily Injury Liability Insurance?

Bodily injury liability insurance is one of two basic auto insurance categories required by California law. Bodily injury insurance serves two main functions:

  1. It pays for medical expenses for the occupants of other vehicles or for pedestrians who are injured in an accident when you are at fault or partially at fault.
  2. If you are sued after causing a car accident, bodily injury insurance also helps pay for your legal defense.

Bodily injury insurance does not cover you or the passengers in your car. If you cause an accident, payment for medical care for you or your passengers will most likely come from:

  • Your health insurance (or your passengers’ health insurance)
  • Optional medical payments auto insurance coverage
  • The other driver’s auto insurance if they are partially to blame for the accident

What Auto Insurance Coverage Does California Require?

All California drivers are required to have car insurance or other proof of financial responsibility. Every auto insurance policy in California must include two elements:

  1. Property damage liability coverage
  2. Bodily injury liability coverage

If you are at fault in an accident, property damage insurance pays for damage to other vehicles and property up to the limit of your coverage. For example, if you hit another car, your property damage insurance will pay to repair or replace it. If you hit your neighbor’s fence, your property damage insurance can pay to repair that, too.

California law (CVC Section 11580.2) also requires car insurers to offer uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage on every policy. You are not required to carry UM/UIM coverage, but you must turn it down in writing if you don’t want it. UM/UIM coverage pays for your injury and property expenses if you’re in an accident with a driver who does not have insurance or has inadequate insurance coverage.

What Are the Minimum Auto Insurance Coverage Amounts in California?

CVC Section 16451 specifies the minimum coverage amounts for auto insurance:

  • California’s minimum bodily injury liability coverage is $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident (usually written as $15,000/$30,000).
  • California’s minimum property damage liability coverage is $5,000.

If you’re shopping for car insurance, coverage is usually presented in this format:

Bodily injury per person / Bodily injury per accident / Property damage per accident

California’s minimum coverage would look like this:


On January 1, 2025, California’s coverage amounts will increase to:

  • Minimum bodily injury coverage of $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident
  • Minimum property damage coverage of $15,000 per accident

What Is the Recommended Amount of Bodily Injury Coverage?

Although carrying the state minimum for auto insurance limits satisfies the legal requirements for driving in California, the minimum coverage isn’t always sufficient.

Suppose you have the California minimum bodily injury limits of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident. You cause an accident, and the other driver and a passenger are injured. The driver has medical expenses of $20,000, and the passenger’s bills total $25,000. Your insurance won’t pay more than $15,000 per person or more than $30,000 per accident. After your insurance covers $15,000 for each injured person, you must cover the remaining $15,000 out of your own pocket.

Because medical expenses in car and pedestrian accidents can easily exceed California’s minimum bodily injury coverage, it’s a good idea to add more coverage.

So, how much bodily injury liability insurance do you need?

  • Some experts recommend carrying bodily injury insurance of at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident.
  • Some financial and insurance advisors recommend tallying the value of your personal assets and making sure you carry enough insurance to protect them in case you’re at fault in an accident.
  • If you have substantial personal assets, it may be worthwhile to purchase umbrella insurance, which provides protection from all forms of personal liability in addition to car and homeowner’s insurance.

Bodily Injury vs. Personal Injury Protection

As we’ve mentioned already, bodily injury insurance pays for others’ medical expenses when you’re at fault in an accident. Personal injury protection also pays for medical expenses, but that’s where the similarities end.

Personal injury protection is a type of insurance coverage that’s only offered in no-fault states—that is, states where insurance coverage doesn’t depend on who’s at fault in an accident. Consequently, personal injury protection is not offered in California, which is an at-fault state.

In no-fault states, personal injury protection pays for medical expenses for anyone who is injured in an accident. This includes medical expenses for you and your passengers, even if you’re at fault. If you’re interested in coverage like this in California, you would shop for medical payments coverage.

How Does Bodily Injury Insurance Work in a Pedestrian Accident?

Although jaywalking is no longer illegal in California, it’s still important to watch out when you’re crossing streets in Bakersfield or anyplace else in Kern County. If you’re struck by a car while walking in California—and as long as you’re not at fault—the driver’s bodily injury liability insurance can provide compensation for things like:

  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages
  • Physical therapy or rehab

It’s a good idea to talk to a pedestrian accident lawyer to ensure you understand your rights as a pedestrian and receive the compensation you need and deserve.

Experienced California Pedestrian Accident Attorneys

The Bakersfield pedestrian accident lawyers of Chain | Cohn | Clark have deep knowledge of California’s pedestrian and crosswalk laws and have helped many pedestrian accident victims receive fair insurance settlements or pursue lawsuits to recover damages for their injuries. If you or a loved one were involved in a pedestrian accident, our attorneys can help bear the burden of dealing with the repercussions.

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