Auto Insurance Basics

Property Damage Liability Car Insurance: What Is It? How Does It Work?

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Property damage liability insurance is one of the major coverage types that drivers are required to have by law. This insurance covers the cost of damages caused to others -- whether you damaged their car, house or any other type of personal property.

What Is Property Damage Car Insurance and What Does It Cover?

Property damage insurance covers you for any financial liability that occurs should you get into an accident and cause damage to someone else's property. Coverage for your own property falls under comprehensive and collision coverage which you pay for separately. Like bodily injury coverage, property damage coverage helps to insure that any driver will be able to assume some financial responsibility for damage caused in an accident where they are deemed at fault. This type of coverage operates on a per accident basis, with the insurance company willing to cover costs up to the amount of your coverage. 

Examples of what is covered:

  • Repairs for damage caused to the other party's vehicle, including auto body shop labor or replacement parts
  • Fixing up damage or destruction to other businesses, houses, fences, lamp posts, mailboxes, etc.
  • Attorney, court, and other legal defense fees incurred for property damage claim (depending on your terms & conditions)
  • Lost income from a business closure that your accident was deemed to cost
  • Other recurring expenses from that damage

Each state sets its own minimums as to the limits you need to have when it comes to property damage coverage:

StateMin. CoverageStateMin. Coverage
Alabama $25,000 Montana $10,000
Alaska 25,000 Nebraska 25,000
Arizona 10,000 Nevada 10,000
Arkansas 25,000 New Hampshire 25,000
California 5,000 New Jersey 5,000
Colorado 15,000 New Mexico 10,000
Connecticut 10,000 New York 10,000
Delaware 10,000 North Carolina 25,000
District of Columbia 10,000 North Dakota 25,000
Florida 10,000 Ohio 7,500
Georgia 25,000 Oklahoma 25,000
Hawaii 10,000 Oregon 20,000
Idaho 15,000 Pennsylvania 5,000
Illinois 15,000 Rhode Island 25,000
Indiana 10,000 South Carolina 25,000
Iowa 15,000 South Dakota 25,000
Kansas 10,000 Tennessee 15,000
Kentucky 10,000 Texas 25,000
Louisiana 25,000 Utah 15,000
Maine 10,000 Vermont 10,000
Maryland 15,000 Virginia 20,000
Massachusetts 15,000 Washington 10,000
Michigan 10,000 West Virginia 25,000
Minnesota 10,000 Wisconsin 10,000
Mississippi 25,000 Wyoming 20,000
Missouri 10,000

How Much Does Property Damage Liability Insurance Cost?

Typical liability limits for property damage coverage range from $5,000 to $100,000, and is based in part on what options auto insurance companies offer to their prospective policyholders. With higher coverage limits, you can expect to have higher premiums. The following table illustrates the property damage related premiums at different coverage limits for a sample car and driver profile. In this case, we used a 2014 Toyota Camry for a driver in New York.

Coverage LimitProperty Damage Premium (6 Months)
$10,000 $68.2
15,000 $68.8
20,000 $69.5
25,000 $70.1
50,000 $71.4
100,000 $73.3

Doubling or tripling your coverage limits does not lead to a corresponding increase in your premiums. The company we obtained quotes from for our example only charges 1.07x for an increase in base property damage premiums from the lowest limit to the highest limit. So going from a $10,000 to $100,000 coverage limit only increases property damage premiums by 7%, or $12 a year. This holds true regardless of what kind of car (economy or luxury) that the policyholder is insuring with our example company, and what the driver's background is. 

How Much Property Damage Liability Insurance Should You Carry?

The average property damage claim is generally less than a few thousand dollars, meaning unlike other types of insurance, you actually don't need to carry that much. In 2013, the average property damage claim was $3,231.  Since 2013, the average claim has most likely gone up, per the trend since 2004. Nonetheless, having at least the state minimum should suffice. As we mention above however, getting extra coverage, just to be extra careful, will be relatively inexpensive. The data below from III shows how average property damage claims have risen between 2004 and 2013.

YearAverage Property Damage Claim
2004 $2,596
2005 $2,717
2006 $2,796
2007 $2,847
2008 $2,903
2009 $2,869
2010 $2,881
2011 $2,958
2012 $3,073
2013 $3,231

How Do You File a Property Damage Liability Claim?

Since property damage insurance covers damage you cause to someone elses property, you will never be the one to make claims against your own policy. Instead, property damage claims are generally filed as third party car insurance claims, where you or another person make an insurance claim against the insurance policy of the person at fault. The limits on the property damage coverage dictate the maximum the insurance company is willing to pay out as the result of any single accident. If the damage caused by the accident exceeds the amount of coverage, then the person making the claim can go after the policyholder directly to recover the excess amounts. This may include being sued in a civil court to make up the difference.

If you are found mostly at-fault in the accident, and cannot recoup enough money from another driver's PD insurance, you would be able to use your collision insurance to cover the rest. Though we would recommend having collision insurance, it is optional and usually expensive to carry.  

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