What Is the Difference Between Bodily Injury and Personal Injury?

Bodily Injury Claim

Many people use the terms “bodily injury” and “personal injury” interchangeably. However, these terms have different meanings from both legal and insurance perspectives that are important to understand should you ever find yourself in court for a personal or bodily injury claim. Discover the key differences between these types of physical injuries in this helpful guide from the legal team at Steinger, Greene & Feiner.

Turn to our personal injury law firm if you need to file a civil lawsuit to seek compensation. We have a proven track record of recovering more than $2 billion in damages for our clients. Read the information below if you’re unsure whether your situation involves bodily or personal injury. 

What Is Bodily Injury?

The legal aspects of bodily injury depend on the injury someone sustains after an incident, such as:

  • Bone fractures
  • Cuts and bruises
  • Nerve damage
  • Deformities

Criminal court cases involving assault or other violent crimes often refer to bodily injuries as the harm inflicted on a victim. Civil lawsuits also recognize bodily injuries, though the context may center around a car accident or other form of danger caused by negligence. Insurance companies focus on bodily injuries in the context of civil suits and provide compensation for those who face injuries because of another person’s negligence.

What’s the difference between bodily injury liability and personal injury protection? An insurance professional will tell you that bodily liability insurance pays damages to another person, while personal injury protection goes toward paying your own damages. Many car insurance policies offer coverage in case someone sues you for a bodily injury claim. 

Say that you hit another vehicle because of distracted driving, and the other driver fractures their wrist because of the collision’s impact. They could file a suit against you for damages, and your insurance coverage would compensate them for their medical expenses and suffering and go toward your legal fees. Depending on the state you live in, laws may dictate that you carry a minimum amount of bodily liability insurance should you ever hurt others on the road. 

What Is Considered Personal Injury?

Personal injury is a broader term than a bodily injury claim and refers to any amount of suffering that someone endures because of an accident. They can sue another party in civil court who they believe is responsible for their injuries and seek financial compensation. A personal injury case may end with the plaintiff receiving damages for any of the following:

  • Medical expenses: Insurance providers often pay economic damages to cover a victim’s medical bills following an injury. These include hospital transportation, treatment, rehabilitation, and caregiver expenses. 
  • Property damage: If you’re not at fault for a car accident and the collision totals your vehicle, you can recover damages for your personal property. Compensation may range from paying for minor repairs to replacing your totaled vehicle. Property damage expenses also include towing costs and any rental vehicle you need. 
  • Lost wages: Some accidents cause extensive injuries that cost someone their ability to work, either temporarily or permanently. Victims are legally entitled to compensation for any lost wages due to an accident. 
  • Emotional distress: If a personal injury attorney aims to seek justice for your pain and suffering, they’ll negotiate financial compensation to make up for the emotional impact of your injury. Accidents can alter personal relationships and quality of life, but you can seek damages to emphasize everything you’ve lost. 

Every circumstance is unique, but some victims recover more in damages by filing a lawsuit than by accepting the original amount an insurance provider offers as a settlement. People with bigger injuries generally recover more in economic and non-economic damages. For example, someone with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder who is unable to work after an accident may receive more in damages than someone who sustains a broken wrist but can continue to work. 

Lawyers recommend that anyone wishing to file a bodily injury claim keep plenty of documentation to support their case and argue for damages. This includes all medical bills, proof of lost wages, and receipts of related expenses, such as a rental car bill that supports a property damage claim.

It’s also smart to take photographs from the scene of the accident, as this shows the property damage to one’s car and the extent of the injuries. Adding this evidence to the case file makes it harder for insurance companies to agree to a smaller payout. 

What Is a Personal Injury Claim?

How does a bodily injury claim compare to a personal injury claim? If you file a personal injury lawsuit, you’ll incur some type of injury as an accident victim, whereas bodily injury claims list you as the at-fault party someone else is seeking damages from. Personal injury lawsuits can take many forms, depending on how you were hurt. 

Many car crash victims who sustain injuries turn to a car accident lawyer for help with their case. People file similar cases if they’re the victim of a truck, motorcycle, or pedestrian accident.

Traffic accidents aren’t the only option for filing a personal injury claim. Say you slip and fall in a grocery store spill and end up with a concussion that prohibits you from working for a few weeks. You could file a suit against the store where the injury occurred and go after them for damages related to your medical care and lost wages. 

Medical malpractice is another common issue that leads people to file personal injury lawsuits. These cases must determine that a healthcare professional was negligent when caring for a patient and that their actions (or inactions) directly led to an injury. An example of this could be a doctor who misdiagnoses a cancerous mass as fatty tissue instead of issuing the highest standard of care for their patient. 

If you plan on filing a personal injury lawsuit, you need to understand the three main legal aspects of these cases. An experienced attorney can explain how each of the following components impacts your case, depending on the state you live in and the details of your case:

  • Statute of limitations: Depending on your state’s statute of limitations, you have a limited amount of time to file a civil suit. Lawyers recommend launching your case soon after an injury occurs to avoid missing the filing deadline. If you fail to file the suit within the allotted timeframe, the court will dismiss your case, and you will lose the opportunity to recover damages. 
  • Liability: Personal injury attorneys must determine the liability of the defendant, or else the case may shift to a bodily injury claim. For example, if you face extensive injuries after a car crash, but evidence shows you’re the at-fault driver, you must utilize your bodily injury insurance to pay damages to the other driver. 
  • Burden of proof: Civil lawsuits don’t place as much emphasis on the burden of proof as criminal trials, but lawyers must still show that someone’s negligence directly caused injury to their client. 

Insurance Coverage for Bodily Injury

If you ever sustain bodily injuries in an auto accident, you can seek damages from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Various insurance providers offer bodily liability coverage in their car insurance policies, given the prevalence of collisions across the country. If someone files a claim against you and you hold this coverage, your insurance provider will pay out damages to the victim for the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Property damage
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Funeral costs (in the case of fatal injuries)

Insurance coverage can also support your legal fees if a driver files a bodily injury claim citing you as the at-fault driver. This could help save you money when hiring a lawyer to defend you in the case. 

You’ll likely receive bodily liability coverage when enrolling in an auto insurance policy, though the exact amount differs for everyone, depending on where they live. For example, Texas law mandates all drivers hold a minimum of $60,000 in coverage protection per accident ($30,000 in coverage for two victims) and $25,000 coverage for property damage. Every policyholder has an opportunity to add more coverage but keep in mind that some insurance companies put limits on the amount they’ll pay per accident. 

While researching insurance policies, ask the provider about bodily injury claims and the amount of protection they offer. The cost of your coverage will be reflected in your premium, so opting for more coverage can increase the amount you pay for insurance. The typical coverage model includes one number that the company will pay if only the driver faces injury, such as $100,000, and a higher number that will cover damages for an accident with multiple victims, such as $300,000. 

If you face injuries after an accident and wish to file a personal or bodily injury claim, it’s wise to have a trustworthy lawyer on your side. Navigating this process can be difficult and take up time and energy that victims don’t always have while they’re on the road to recovery. Insurance companies that represent the at-fault driver use different tactics to intimidate victims into settling for the lowest possible amount. 

Hiring an attorney with years of experience in this area gives you a better chance of earning more in damages. Lawyers understand all the jargon that insurance companies use and take facts from the case to argue that you’re entitled to more than the original offering. Whereas an insurance provider might agree to pay for medical expenses and property damage only without accounting for the pain and suffering you endure because of your injuries, a lawyer recognizes your pain and will do everything in their power to increase your payout. 

Let’s say one car crash victim suffers from a broken leg and acquires medical treatment totaling $30,000 but can continue to work and has only $5,000 in property damage. Insurance providers might only agree to pay $35,000 and completely discount their pain and suffering. Lawyers can negotiate for their clients and argue that an additional $15,000 should be paid for emotional damages for a total of $50,000 to the victim.

Another crash victim undergoes a leg amputation after a serious accident that impacts their ability to work, leads to depression, and requires ongoing rehabilitative care. Insurance providers will likely pay more in damages for this bodily injury claim, given the drastic medical care and lost wages, but might not consider the emotional trauma of losing a limb. An experienced injury attorney can present all the facts and negotiate for the insurance company to raise their total payout. 

Legal representation is also important because of the limited time in which one has to pursue a case. You’ll need a knowledgeable legal team to evaluate your case and ensure the court accepts it as valid given the statute of limitations, liability, and burden of proof. No matter what type of hardships you face following an accident, a seasoned lawyer will fight for you every step of the way. 

Get in Touch With a Lawyer After an Injury

Navigating an injury claim can be confusing if you have limited legal knowledge or experience. If you endure a physical injury that alters your quality of life and leaves you with steep medical bills, it could be time to hire an attorney with the requisite experience in handling personal and bodily injury claims. The law firm of Steinger, Greene & Feiner helps clients around the country seek compensation for their injuries and won’t charge you a penny unless you win your case. We provide clear, prompt communication online and have offices in states like Florida, California, New York, and Texas, among others. To receive a free case evaluation, complete our online contact form or call (800) 431-6841.

About the Author

Sean Greene
Sean Greene

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Sean J. Greene has recovered more than $150 million in the past 10 years for clients. He specializes within the firm in wrongful death, personal injury, medical malpractice, nursing home malpractice, and product liability cases. Sean has represented coaches and players in the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) who have been victims of personal injuries. In 2001, after winning a trial on liability, he recovered $11,200,000 for the family of David Griggs, the former Miami Dolphins player who died in an automobile accident in Broward County, Florida. He has received the highest distinction of an AV® rated attorney by Martindale-Hubbell, which recognizes Sean as possessing “Very High-Preeminent” legal ability with “Very High” ethical standards. Additionally, he is a member of the prestigious Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum whose membership is limited to trial lawyers who have achieved a trial verdict or settlement in the amount of $1,000,000 or more. Sean is widely known in South Florida, as he cohosted the TV program “Your Legal Rights” and lectures throughout the state of Florida on various legal issues.