Car Insurance Coverage Requirements

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Massachusetts and Rhode Island have been neighboring states since colonial times, so you might think that their minimum car insurance requirements would be the same, if not very similar. There are some significant differences, as shown in the following chart.

Required CoverageMassachusettsRhode Island
Bodily Injury Liability$20,000 per person
$40,000 per accident
$25,000 per person
$50,000 per accident
Property Damage Liability$5,000 per accident$25,000 per accident
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist$20,000 per person
$40,000 per accident
Rhode Island drivers may decline this coverage.
Personal Injury Protection$8,000 per accidentNot required.

#1 Bodily Injury Liability

If you are found to be at fault in a car accident, bodily injury liability is the part of your auto insurance policy that should help you pay for the costs associated with injuries to other people involved in the crash. Bodily injury liability typically provides coverage for your legal defense if you are sued by the injured parties for medical expenses, lost wages, general pain and suffering, and more.

Other situations in which this coverage may apply include the following.

  • A family member living in your household or a person using your car with your consent causes an accident.
  • You or a family member in your household causes an accident while driving someone else’s car with their consent, and the damages exceed the amount of insurance available in the vehicle owner’s policy.

It is important to know that bodily injury liability does not pay for medical costs related to injuries suffered by you or anyone else driving your car.

#2 Property Damage Liability

If you are determined to be at fault in a car accident that results in damage to someone else’s property, then property damage liability is the portion of your auto insurance that typically covers the cost of repairing what you’ve ruined. Most commonly, this coverage applies to someone else’s car that you’ve hit and damaged. However, property damage liability may also cover you if you damage the following, as well.

  • Lawns
  • Fences
  • Houses
  • Guardrails
  • Building fronts
  • Telephone poles

This coverage can also pay for expenses related to the loss of use of the damaged property. For example, if a car is driven into the side of a home, it can possibly shift the residence off its foundation. Property damage liability may cover the cost for the household’s residents to move somewhere else until the foundation and house can be repaired, if high enough limits have been purchased. Finally, property damage liability should pay for damages to another’s property not only when you are the driver who caused the accident but also when someone else is driving your car with your permission and is at fault.

#3 Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists

This coverage is designed to provide critical protection to you if you’re injured in a car crash that is not your fault. The following are some situations when having this coverage could greatly benefit you.

  • You are injured in a car crash by a driver who flees the scene.
  • You are injured in a car crash by a driver who does not have insurance.
  • You are injured in a car crash by a driver who has purchased only the minimum amount of insurance coverage required by their state and thus does not have enough insurance to cover the entirety of your claim.

In situations such as these, having uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage means that your insurance should typically replace the insurance that the at-fault driver should have had.

#4 Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

If you’re injured in an auto accident, regardless of who is at fault, the personal injury protection coverage in your auto insurance policy is designed to fill in some of the coverage gaps that may be left by your health insurance plan. Particularly if you have a health care plan with high deductibles or low limits, this coverage is extremely valuable.

Personal injury protection could provide coverage for:

  • Emergency medical expenses like an ambulance ride
  • Hospital expenses and medications
  • Injuries sustained by your passengers
  • Injuries sustained if you’re walking or cycling and are hit by a car
  • Necessary dental care because of a car accident
  • Lost wages while recovering from injuries
  • Funeral expenses

Personal injury protection is required for drivers in Massachusetts, but not for those in Rhode Island. However, there is an optional coverage for Rhode Islanders called medical payments, which offers some of the same protection.

Like PIP, medical payments typically cover you for the costs of your medical care resulting from an accident, no matter who is at fault for the accident. However, it does not extend quite as far as personal injury protection coverage, as it is strictly intended to cover medical bills and funeral expenses.