Bodily Injury Insurance in Utah: What Does it Cover?
By: Rex Bush If you have ever reviewed your auto policy, you may have seen the term “BI–Bodily Injury." What does this cover?” The policy says it will “pay damages which an insured becomes legally liable to pay because of bodily injury to others caused by accident resulting from the ownership or use of your car.” What are “damages?” DAMAGES DEFINED Black’s Law Dictionary defines damages as “a sum of money awarded to a person because of the [wrongful act] of another.” Ok, so “damages” just means money. But how do the courts decide what money to award? TYPES OF DAMAGES Damages, says the Blacks Law Dictionary, come in three broad classes: actual, nominal and punitive Nominal damages are those awarded where a right has been violated but there is no substantial injury. When Sally drove on to the farmer’s field that was a trespass. Had she done so with no loss to the land or equipment or farmer that would have entitled the farmer to nominal damages (usually one dollar) for trespass. Punitive damages also known as exemplary damages are intended to punish the defendant. They may be awarded where the conduct of the defendant was particularly wicked. Actual damages also known as compensatory damages are those awarded for actual or real loss or injury. This is what bodily injury insurance most commonly covers. In most auto accident cases, actual damages break down into general damages and special damages. SPECIAL DAMAGES These, says Blacks Law Dictionary, are the “actual result of the injury complained of, by reason of special circumstances or conditions.” Special damages are easily quantifiable. In a bodily injury case three important special damage components are medical, lost income, and household services. Medical Expenses This includes hospital visits, prescriptions, and neck braces. Medical expenses need to be reasonable and necessary. Juries may trim down the medical expenses they consider excessive. Household Services If an injured person is, for example, unable to mow the lawn, that person may replace herself by hiring a neighbor boy (or girls). The money paid for these services would be recoverable in a personal injury claim so this would be covered by a bodily injury policy. Household services are also covered by one's own PIP or no fault policy. GENERAL DAMAGES These are the difficult to quantify side of bodily injury damages. What is commonly known as “pain and suffering” comes under this category. Loss of enjoyment of life also falls under this category. General damages is often roughly calculated using a multiplier such as 1x, 2x, 3x times the reasonable and necessary medical expenses. ATTORNEY FEES If you are sued by someone after an accident, your bodily injury coverage will also pay for an attorney to defend you. These lawyers, known as “insurance defense attorneys” will be hired by your insurance company for you. SUMMARY Bodily injury coverage protects you if you are sued after causing physical injury to another. The coverage extends to anyone using your car with your permission. Your coverage also protects you if you are driving someone else’s car with permission. The basic elements covered include medical expenses, lost wages, household services, pain and suffering, and attorney fees to hire an attorney to defend you.