Minimum car insurance requirements

Read the Spanish version: Cobertura mínima requerida para seguro de auto

minimum auto insuranceMost states require you have car insurance and have laws that outline the minimum level of coverage you must buy.

Auto insurance minimums

State Minimums
Alabama 25/50/25
Alaska 50/100/25
Arizona 15/30/10
Arkansas 25/50/25
California 15/30/5
Colorado 25/50/15
Connecticut 20/40/10
Delaware 15/30/10
District of Columbia 25/50/10
Florida 10/20/10
Georgia 25/50/25
Hawaii 20/40/10
Idaho 25/50/15
Illinois 20/40/15
Indiana 25/50/10
Iowa 20/40/15
Kansas 25/50/10
Kentucky 25/50/10
Louisiana 15/30/25
Maine 50/100/25
Maryland 30/60/15
Massachusetts 20/40/5
Michigan 20/40/10
Minnesota 30/60/10
Mississippi 25/50/25
Missouri 25/50/10
Montana 25/50/10
Nebraska 25/50/25
Nevada 15/30/10
New Hampshire 25/50/25
New Jersey 15/30/5
New Mexico 25/50/10
New York 25/50/10
North Carolina 30/60/25
North Dakota 25/50/25
Ohio 12.5/25/7.5
Oklahoma 25/50/25
Oregon  25/50/20
Pennsylvania 15/30/5
Rhode Island 25/50/25
South Carolina 25/50/25
South Dakota 25/50/25
Tennessee 25/50/15
Texas 30/60/25
Utah  25/65/15
Vermont 25/50/10
Virginia 25/50/20
Washington  25/50/10
West Virginia  20/40/10
Wisconsin 25/50/10
Wyoming 25/50/20

Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. Used with permission. Requirements shown as of September 2011.

However, the minimum limits your state requires may not necessarily be adequate. A car accident can cost far more than the limits mandated by most states. The Insurance Information Institute recommends you carry at least $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $300,000 per accident (known as 100/300).

What is no-fault car insurance?

If your state has a "no-fault" auto insurance law, your policy must pay medical bills for you and your passengers regardless of who caused the accident. No-fault laws are intended to keep insurance fraud down.

How to read auto insurance liability limits

Here's how to read the following table of auto insurance liability minimums.

  1. First number: Bodily injury liability maximum for one person injured in an accident.
  2. Second number: Bodily injury liability maximum for all injuries in one accident.
  3. Third number: Property damage liability maximum for one accident.

For example, if you live in New York, the minimum liability limits are $25,000 for injury liability for one person, $50,000 for all injuries and $10,000 for property damage in an accident. Plus, New York requires you to have personal injury protection (PIP) and uninsured motorist coverage (UM).

No-fault auto insurance states

Florida

Hawaii

Kansas

Kentucky

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

New Jersey

New York

North Dakota

Pennsylvania

Utah

Puerto Rico*

Source: Insurance Information Institute. *Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory.

Deciphering auto insurance liability across state lines

If you hold the minimum automobile insurance required in your state and are involved in an accident in another state that requires higher minimum coverages or other coverage (such as personal injury protection), your policy will automatically increase to meet that state's minimum coverage requirements.

For example, if you're a Connecticut driver (where minimum liability coverage is $20,000 of bodily injury protection per person, $40,000 of bodily injury protection per accident and $10,000 of property damage per accident, or 20/40/10, as it's often called) and are involved in an accident in New York (which requires 25/50/10 of liability coverage), your insurance will automatically extend to meet New York's requirements. This boost can be helpful, especially when you cause a large amount of property damage.

Some states restrict the ability of their citizens to sue one another for pain and suffering after a car accident. Puerto Rico (a U.S. territory) and 12 states have "no-fault" laws. These laws mean that your car insurance must pay for bodily injury damages no matter who's at fault in an accident. However, these same states allow their citizens to litigate against folks from other states after a car accident.

For example, you are limited in your ability to sue for damages if you live in Pennsylvania. When buying your auto coverage you have two choices of liability: "full tort" or "limited tort." If you choose "limited tort," you will pay less in premiums but you won't be able to sue another Pennsylvanian for pain and suffering unless you're seriously injured and your medical bills exceed a specified minimum amount. What constitutes a serious injury is outlined in your car insurance policy. If you choose full tort, your premiums will be more but you will be able to sue no matter the amount of your damages.

Throw out the rulebook if someone from another state crashes into you. Even if you have Pennsylvania "limited tort," you'll be able seek compensation for pain and suffering in the court system if someone from outside Pennsylvania crashes into you.

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