Auto Insurance: Medical Payments vs. Bodily Injury Coverage

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Auto Insurance: Medical Payments vs. Bodily Injury Coverage

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Even the most careful drivers can be involved in a car accident. In some accidents, injuries occur.

Your auto insurance is there to help protect you financially when the unexpected occurs. Bodily injury and medical payments coverage are two components an insurance policy that can protect you financially should you, your passengers, or anyone in the other vehicle involved get injured. While they might seem similar, the two coverages are very different. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is the Difference Between Bodily Injury and Medical Payments?

Bodily Injury

This type of coverage protects you if the other driver is injured and you are found at-fault for an accident. It covers a portion of the costs associated with their injuries and injuries sustained by their passengers. It can also provide some coverage for any injured pedestrians or bystanders.

What It Covers

Bodily injury can help to cover a variety of costs, saving you from a potentially devastating financial blow.

  • Medical expenses. 

    The coverage can help to pay for emergency care, hospital bills, and follow-up care as well as any necessary medical equipment.

  • Loss of income. 

    If the driver of the other vehicle or any of their passengers is unable to work due to injuries, bodily injury can cover their lost wages.

  • Pain and suffering.

    It can provide the other driver or their passengers with compensation for long-lasting pain or emotional suffering from the accident. 

  • Legal fees. 

    If the other driver files a lawsuit against you, the coverage can help pay for your legal defense fees. 

  • Funeral expenses. 

    Should the accident result in the death of the other driver, their passenger, or a bystander, bodily injury can cover funeral costs. 

How It Works

Bodily injury is part of the liability coverage in your auto insurance policy. Liability also includes property damage. With liability, you can purchase a combined single limit or split limit policy.

A single limit policy offers a set amount of coverage that you divide between bodily injury and property damage. A split limit policy, on the other hand, offers two separate limits. The first is the maximum your insurance provider will pay per person. The second number is the maximum your policy covers per accident for everyone involved. Your policy may also include a third limit, which refers to the amount your insurance company will pay for property damage.

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Do I Have to Have Bodily Injury Coverage?

Every state and Washington DC requires drivers to have bodily injury coverage as a part of their auto insurance policy. Each state sets its own minimum requirements. Most require at least $25,000 per person and $30,000 per accident. Some require less, while Alaska and Maine require a minimum of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident. Florida only requires a minimum of $10,000 for bodily injury liability. 

While states do set minimum requirements, you can choose more. Increasing your limits, however, will increase your premiums.

Medical Payments Coverage

Medical payments (often called MedPay) covers you, your family, or any other passengers in your vehicle at the time of the accident, regardless of who is at fault. The coverage requires no deductibles or co-payments. It’s immediate and helps to pay for any medical bills you or your passengers accrue following an auto accident.

Another benefit of medical payments coverage is that it travels with you. You don’t have to be in a car to take advantage of it. If you’re hit by a motorist while walking, running, or biking, your coverage can help pay for your medical expenses.

What It Covers

Medical payments coverage protects you in various situations, including:

  • You, your family members, or other passengers in your vehicle are injured in a car accident (no matter if you or the other driver is at-fault)

  • You get injured in a car accident as a passenger in someone else’s vehicle 

  • You get hit by a car while walking or biking

  • You need medical procedures such as X-rays or surgery 

  • You require long-term hospitalization or nursing care during your rehabilitation

  • You need a prosthetic limb as a result of an accident

  • The accident results in your death, or the death of one of your passengers

How It Works

Where bodily injury protects you from having to pay for medical care and other associated costs of the driver and passengers of the other vehicle if you cause the accident, medical payments coverage protects you and your passengers. It doesn’t matter who caused the accident.

If the other driver is at-fault, their bodily injury liability coverage will cover your medical costs, but it can take a while for their insurance to pay. Instead of paying out of pocket for your own medical care until the company pays, medical payments provides you, and your passengers, with immediate coverage. 

Unlike bodily injury, limits for medical payments don’t refer to a total available coverage. Instead, they refer to the available coverage per person. So, if you have a $5,000 limit and three people are injured, the policy pays up to $5,000 for each individual. Several states also allow stacking.

Is It Required?

Medical payments coverage is similar to personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, which is required by residents of “no-fault” states. Some tort states require this coverage as well.

While PIP covers lost wages as well as medical care, it does require a co-pay. Medical payments doesn’t have a co-pay, and can even cover the one required by PIP. If you exhaust your PIP limits, medical payments can cover the rest.

Unlike PIP and bodily injury, it’s also an optional coverage. No state requires you to purchase medical payments coverage.

Do I Need Medical Payments Coverage if I Have Health Insurance?

As stated above, medical payments coverage is optional. You don’t have to include it as a part of your policy if you don’t want to. It can still be beneficial to have, even if you have health insurance.

If you don’t have a health insurance policy, medical payments can help to cover all costs associated with a car accident. If you have some health insurance coverage or high deductibles, medical payments can help to meet those deductibles, making your care more affordable.

Even if you have an excellent health insurance plan and low deductibles, medical payments coverage can work hand in hand with your policy. Medical payments can cover you if you exceed your health insurance limits. It can also help to cover the things that your health insurance policy might not cover, such as:

  • Ambulance transportation

  • Dental care

  • Chiropractic care

  • Funeral expenses

Medical payments coverage also covers any passengers who get injured during an accident. While you might have an excellent health insurance policy, they might not. In such cases, your medical payments coverage can help pay for bills they might not be able to afford. 

You can use your health insurance policy to help you determine how much medical payments coverage you need. For instance, if you have a good policy, you may not need all of the features that medical payments offers. The coverage limits are generally low-cost, however, so having a bit more than you think you might need can give you extra reassurance that you’re covered. 

Does Bodily Injury Cover Medical Expenses?

Bodily injury coverage does cover medical expenses, but only for the driver and passengers of the other vehicle (as well as any pedestrians or bystanders) who are injured if you’re the one at fault for the accident. If you cause the accident, your bodily injury liability won’t cover you.

If another driver causes the accident, their bodily injury liability should provide you with some coverage for your medical expenses. It can take a while for their insurance company to pay, though, leaving you to foot your bills. If the at-fault driver has no insurance or is underinsured, you’d have to pay for your own care. You could take the other driver to court, but the process could be lengthy and expensive.

If you live in a “no-fault” state (or tort state that requires it), your PIP coverage helps to cover your medical expenses. Every state has limits to how much insurance companies cover, however. For instance, the state of New York requires a minimum PIP coverage of $50,000 per person, while Pennsylvania requires a $5,000 per person per accident minimum. If your medical bills, or those of your passengers, exceeds the limits, you’re responsible for the rest. You’re also responsible for a co-payment.

In all of these situations, having medical payments coverage is beneficial. It can cover what the other motorist’s insurance, your PIP coverage, or your health insurance doesn’t cover. For a small monthly premium, having medical payments can provide you with peace of mind knowing that you won’t be spending a significant amount on medical care in the event of an auto accident.

Bodily injury and medical payments coverage are two components of an auto insurance policy. Where bodily injury is required no matter where you live, medical payments is completely optional. Having both, however, can help keep you and your wallet safe in the event of an accident. 

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