What Is Considered Bodily Injury In a Car Accident?

A man grasping his neck in pain while calling for help after a collision between his car and another vehicle.All states assume licensed drivers to be responsible behind the wheel of their vehicles. And that implies when an accident occurs, they should be ready to be held financially responsible in the event they cause it.

Most states ascertain this by requiring drivers to have what is known as liability insurance. And even in those that allow other options to fulfill this requirement, a majority of drivers opt for insurance anyway.

Liability insurance is often split into two types of coverage: bodily injury (BI) and property damage (PD). Both of these types pay for different types of damage, with different conditions and limits to the policy.

The latter is easy enough to understand: PD coverage provides financial protection for any third party’s, well, damaged property in an accident where the policyholder is held liable. In a no-fault state such as Utah, however, BI coverage is a little more complex than elsewhere.

What Does Bodily Injury Cover?

A common mistake some people make, especially when they are new to the insurance system, is to assume BI coverage protects the insured. This is no doubt due to the full terminology for the coverage – bodily injury liability – being abbreviated as just BI.

Rather, just as PD liability, BI protects third parties who sustain any injuries as a result of the vehicular accident, assuming the insured driver is at fault. As for the specifics of coverage, BI covers both economic and non-economic damages tied to the injuries a party sustains.

Medical Expenses

BI claims mostly cover medical expenses accrued by car accident victims. These expenses are assumed to be related to the short-and-long-term treatment of the injury itself and include medication, hospital bills, therapy, and more until maximum medical improvement (MMI).

Sometimes claims are filed and have to be processed before a claimant can fully recover. When this happens, the medical expenses component of a BI claim can account for future treatment costs in addition to expenses already accrued.

In these scenarios, a doctor can provide a prognosis for the injured party, which can be used to estimate the cost of future treatment. While prognoses can change, claims can also account for the worst-case developments given available information provided by medical professionals.

Legal Expenses

BI claims also cover attorney fees and court costs for the injured party. This is based on the argument that injured parties would not have had to get into a legal dispute without first being involved in an accident that the liable party caused.

Interestingly enough, BI coverage of legal expenses also applies to the insured party in addition to the claimant. Insurance providers pay legal defense costs for the insured in addition to the policy limits, in contrast to coverage for the injured party, which is subject to those limits.

What this means is, in addition to the private adjuster who will evaluate the accident, the insurance company will also send an attorney to fight for the policyholder and attempt to push for reduced liability on their part.

Loss of Income

This aspect of BI coverage serves as a safety net to compensate the accident victim for lost wages and earning potential during recovery. It applies specifically when an injury prevents the victim from working or if the injury negatively affects the amount of money they earn.

Computation for loss of income is fairly straightforward, though some factors vary depending on the insurer and the context of the case. Take the claimant’s daily wage and multiply it by the number of work days missed from the accident to the point of MMI.

If the claimant has yet to reach MMI and remains unavailable to work as of filing the claim, they will usually get a prognosis from a doctor projecting the duration of future treatment. This is practically the same “future-proof” solution as that covered in the medical expenses subsection.

Pain and Suffering

Not all BI coverage includes the non-economic damages of pain and suffering because it is difficult to quantify. After all, the degree to which an individual experiences pain and suffering is a deeply subjective measure.

Still, policies that do cover pain and suffering under BI liability aim to compensate victims for the physical, mental, and emotional experiences of stress and turmoil due to the injuries. Payouts for pain and suffering are particularly common with disfigurement and permanent disability.

Loss of Consortium

Another common non-economic damage that may be covered by BI claims is loss of consortium. This component is intended to compensate close family members of the injured party for the loss of comfort, closeness, and experiences.

Traditionally, loss of consortium was reserved for couples. The root word consort implies reimbursement for the lost ability to have children or to engage in a satisfying sexual relationship as a result of serious injuries.

However, today, many states have expanded the legal definition to include any close family activities. As a result, most first-degree and some extended family members may now file a claim for loss of consortium.

Funeral Expenses

In the tragic event of a car accident fatality, some costs associated with the funeral can be covered under BI policies. Most of the time, this includes the funeral parlor’s fees, burial services, and the casket or urn for the departed.

BI rarely covers the entirety of funeral expenses. That said, depending on the insurer and the specifics of the policy, funeral expenses can include additional services such as death certificate fees, transportation, and venue.

Bodily Insurance Liability Explained

A person’s BI coverage is represented in their insurance policy as the first two of three numbers, separated by slashes. The first number is the coverage limit in thousands of dollars per person, and the second is the coverage limit in thousands of dollars per accident.

The third set of numbers represents PD liability coverage per accident.

Different states require different minimum amounts for each of these coverages. In Utah, these limits are $25,000 in BI per person, $65,000 in BI per accident, and $15,000 in PD per accident.

Written down, this appears as 25/65/15. This is known as a split limit policy.

Some insurance providers offer policies with single limits for both BI and PD, called combined single limit (CSL) policies. If you opt for CSL, the minimum coverage requirement in Utah is $80,000.

The main factor that complicates BI claims in Utah is the fact it is a no-fault state. In this system, injuries need to pass certain thresholds before a car accident victim can pursue a lawsuit – or, yes, an insurance claim – against an at-fault driver.

If an injured person does not meet these thresholds, they must pursue benefits from the insurance company that covers the vehicle they are in. This means a driver/car owner will use their own policy, while a passenger will use the car owner’s policy as well.

The policy that covers this type of claim is called personal injury protection (PIP) and applies regardless of fault in the accident.

Stepping Outside the Personal Injury Protection System

PIP can cover the same things BI does: medical expenses, in particular. Some insurance providers also have PIP policies that include items like lost income, funeral expenses, and in some cases, survivor benefits.

On that note, one thing PIP does not typically cover is the legal expense for the policyholder, as there is no need to dispute a party regarding fault.

No-fault states can have two possible thresholds for PIP: monetary and verbal. Utah specifies both.

  • Monetary Threshold: This is the threshold of damages that must be surpassed for an injured party to file a liability claim.
  • Verbal Threshold: This is a list of injuries verbally stated in the law that, when sustained in a car accident, exempt the victim from the no-fault system.

In Utah, the monetary threshold is $3,000 in medical expenses. Meanwhile, the verbal threshold – also called the “injury threshold” – includes permanent disfigurement, permanent disability, permanent impairment, and dismemberment.

Comparative Fault in Car Accidents

Once you manage to leave the no-fault system, you may file a BI liability claim. But a second complicating factor that may affect your claim is Utah’s comparative negligence system.

Utah’s fault system has a 50% at-fault bar, which means you may not get compensation from another party if you are 50% or more at fault for an accident. In addition, the total value of any compensation you are owed is reduced by your degree of fault.

So then, if you are owed $20,000 total, and you are 30% at fault, you are entitled to only $14,000 in compensation. That is 70% of the total amount of damages.

This comparative fault system is why insurance companies offer legal defense in addition to their BI coverage. By extension, this somewhat explains why only 51% of self-representing clients walk away with a settlement compared to 91% of clients who work with lawyers.

The at-fault party is guaranteed a legal professional working to avert fault and thus devalue the claim, while the claimant has to seek their own legal representative.

Make Your Bodily Injury Claim a Successful One With Valley Law

Whether it’s you who’s been injured in a car accident or a loved one, Valley Law Accident and Injury Lawyers is here to help you on your journey to recovery. Lead Attorney Brigham Richards leads our firm with over ten decades of experience in the field, dedicated to your fair claim.

Contact us today via our online form, or call us at 801-810-9999 to get a free consultation for your bodily injury claim. We work on a contingency basis, so if you choose to work with us, you do not need to pay until we win your case.

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