Does liability cover passengers injured in an auto accident?

Find out if and when liability insurance covers passengers if they sustain an auto accident injury. Discover how to properly handle that situation with your insurance.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: Jun 10, 2022

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Things to Remember...

  • Your liability usually covers passengers if you are the at-fault driver
  • If another driver is at fault, their insurance should pay the medical bills for your passengers, except in no-fault accident states
  • Minimum bodily injury liability coverage legal requirements may not be sufficient to pay medical expenses for injured passengers

Drivers carry the responsibility for maintaining the safety of everyone in the vehicle, but accidents happen. So when an accident happens does liability cover passengers? The stress of a car collision is enough without worrying about your passengers’ medical bills.

When you understand the basics of liability coverage, you can make sure you obtain a policy that adequately protects you and your passengers. We go over all the essential information to help you make an informed decision about your liability insurance.

Does liability cover passengers hurt in an accident?

Liability insurance may cover passengers when they sustain injuries in a car crash. Whether it does depends on your state’s insurance laws, who is at fault, and the terms of your policy. States differ in what type and how much car insurance residents are required to carry. Drivers are expected to have a policy that meets these minimum requirements, but they can choose to add protection by raising limits and adding supplemental coverages.

Fault is also a factor determining if the driver’s liability covers passengers, except in no-fault accident insurance states. At-fault and no-fault accident insurance states differ in the rules for whose insurance pays for damages in a collision. Therefore, even if you have liability and are responsible for paying medical expenses for the passengers in a vehicle, it may not be enough to cover their bills.

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What does liability insurance cover?

Liability protections pay for damages to others when you are at fault in a car accident. Though you may think of liability insurance as a single type of coverage, there are two different coverages, and only one covers passengers injured in a collision.

Property Damage Liability

With property damage liability coverage, your insurance pays for damages to another person’s personal property when you are the one who caused the accident. This type of coverage takes care of the other driver’s vehicle repairs. It’s also the insurance you use when you hit non-vehicular property. Your insurance company pays for damages up to the limits of your policy. Anything above that is your responsibility.

Bodily Injury Liability

Bodily injury liability pays for injuries when you are the at-fault driver. This coverage pays the other driver’s medical expenses, including their passengers. Bodily injury liability coverage pays for:

  • Medical bills. Your insurance covers any medical expenses related to injuries the other vehicle’s passengers sustained in the accident, including initial hospital or doctor bills, prescription medications, follow-up appointments, and rehabilitation.
  • Lost wages. If the injured party lost wages due to injuries, your liability insurance would pay the lost income. States may have regulations limiting how much the insurance company must pay out.
  • Legal fees. Your liability coverage won’t necessarily prevent the injured party from suing you for damages not paid through your policy. However, your liability insurance may pay for your legal defense if you are sued.

Bodily injury liability covers passengers in your vehicle if you are the at-fault driver, but only if those passengers are not members of your household.

Does every state require liability car insurance?

Every state requires drivers to carry car insurance except two. New Hampshire and Virginia have no minimum coverage laws. Though car insurance requirements vary by state, almost all establish rules for liability insurance. For example, New Hampshire only demands that its drivers demonstrate financial responsibility. In Florida, drivers need property damage liability but not bodily injury liability. The remaining states require both types of liability coverage.

The minimum liability requirement may not be sufficient to cover medical expenses and lost wages for everyone injured in an accident you are liable for. Therefore, you may consider purchasing a liability policy with a higher limit than your state’s required minimum.

Whose liability insurance covers passengers’ medical expenses if another driver is at fault?

If you are in an accident and another driver is at fault, generally, that driver’s liability covers passengers in your vehicle who sustain injuries. It’s important to remember that insurance companies may assign blame to more than one driver. The other driver’s liability coverage may only pay for a percentage of the damages. If you bear some of the responsibility in the accident, state laws regulating insurance companies determine which party’s policy pays damages first.

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Who pays when you are the at-fault driver?

If you are the at-fault driver and your passengers get hurt in the collision, your liability only covers their injuries if they are not members of your household. When your liability coverage doesn’t protect passengers, their medical expenses may be paid by:

  • Passenger personal injury protection (PIP) insurance
  • Passenger health insurance
  • Your supplemental medical payment or personal injury coverage

When your passengers are related to you, your insurance company treats coverage for them the same way it does for you if they are hurt in a collision.

What happens if you live in a no-fault accident insurance state?

States that implement no-fault accident insurance laws work a little differently. In these states, drivers file personal injury claims with their own insurance company, regardless of who is at fault. Likewise, suppose you live in one of the 12 states with no-fault accident insurance laws. In that case, your liability covers passengers in your car, no matter who causes the accident, up to the limits of your policy.

Who pays when medical expenses are higher than liability insurance limits?

If your insurance company is responsible for paying for the medical expenses of injured passengers, it will only pay up to the limits for liability coverage established in your policy. Unfortunately, medical expenses may quickly exceed the limits of severe accidents or those resulting in more than one injured passenger.

If you don’t have supplemental coverage, you could be on the hook for paying the remaining damages. A personal injury protection policy or a medical payments policy covers medical expenses for your passengers regardless of who is at fault. These plans can take over where liability leaves off. Without this extra protection, your risk of a lawsuit increases.

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If liability covers passengers, where do they file their claims?

When passengers sustain injuries in a car accident, they file their claims with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. However, fault is not always clear-cut, and the insurance companies may assign a percentage to multiple drivers. Therefore, it’s usually good to inform each driver’s insurance company of your injuries and let them know which other companies you are contacting. Ensure you and your passengers know how to file a car insurance claim to ensure the process goes as smoothly and quickly as possible.

Does liability cover passenger? The Bottom Line

Generally, the at-fault driver’s bodily injury liability covers passengers who sustain injuries in a car accident. However, if you cause the accident and your vehicle occupants are members of your household, your liability policy does not pay for their medical expenses.

When your liability coverage isn’t sufficient, you may have to pay the additional costs yourself unless you have supplemental insurance that will cover what liability doesn’t. Purchasing higher liability coverage than your state’s minimum requirements and procuring supplemental PIP or medical care coverage can reduce your risk of financial hardships from an accident that results in injuries to your passengers.

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