The Difference Between Bodily Injury and Personal Injury in California

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To most Californians, the terms “bodily injury” and “personal injury” sound similar, if not identical. But for California lawyers, they have distinct, albeit related, meanings. Bodily injury is insurance-industry terminology for physical injuries covered by an insurance policy. Personal injury is an area of law that deals with seeking compensation for physical, emotional, or financial harm caused by someone else’s misconduct.

Here’s an overview of the key differences and overlaps between bodily injury and personal injury and an experienced California personal injury lawyer’s role in handling matters involving them.

Bodily Injury in California

Californians purchase insurance to protect themselves and others against risks of harm. Many insurance policies — including auto, homeowners, renters, and workers’ compensation insurance — cover the risk of bodily injury to the policyholder or others. In covering bodily injuries, an insurance company promises to pay the insured party up to a certain amount (the “policy limit”) for expenses and losses stemming from the harm they suffered. A request seeking payment from that insurer is known as a bodily injury claim.

What constitutes a bodily injury? Every insurance policy supplies a definition, but generally speaking, a bodily injury is any physical harm, including illness, disease, or death, that isn’t expressly excluded from coverage under the policy’s terms. Examples of bodily injuries covered by insurance include brain trauma suffered in a car accident or broken bones from a slip and fall. In California, emotional distress on its own does not usually constitute a bodily injury for insurance purposes, but it might be covered when accompanied by a physical injury.

The most reliable way to determine whether an insurance policy covers you for bodily injury is to consult an experienced California injury attorney. A lawyer can review an insurance policy and determine the scope and amount of coverage it provides for any injury you suffered.

Personal Injury in California

California lawyers use the term personal injury to refer to the area of law concerned with obtaining compensation for the harm you suffer because of someone else’s dangerous or wrongful actions. In that context, a personal injury is any physical, emotional, or financial injury caused by a preventable accident or incident that was someone else’s fault.

The process of seeking compensation for a personal injury is called a personal injury claim. A personal injury claim can take various forms. To obtain money for an injured accident victim, a lawyer might:

  • Informally request and negotiate a payment from the at-fault party or someone else liable for the harm done
  • Submit a bodily injury claim under an insurance policy covering the victim’s losses
  • File a lawsuit against the at-fault party or an insurance company seeking damages

Lawyers usually aren’t limited to just one of these options. Depending on the circumstances, they might pursue all of them simultaneously or one at a time to achieve a favorable outcome for their client. If you sustained injuries in California because of someone else’s careless, reckless, or intentionally harmful actions, contact a lawyer to discuss whether you have a personal injury claim to make and how much you might stand to receive.

Differences Between Bodily Injury and Personal Injury Claims

As the explanations above reflect, bodily injury and personal injury claims differ but also overlap. Suffering physical harm in an accident could entitle you to pursue a bodily injury claim under an insurance policy. And that bodily injury claim could form part of the personal injury action a lawyer handles on your behalf.

Still, not all bodily injury claims necessarily lead to personal injury claims. For example, suppose you lost control of your car on a rain-slick road, crashed, and suffered injuries. You might have a bodily injury claim to make under your auto insurance policy (assuming you paid for that kind of coverage). But because the accident wasn’t anyone else’s fault, you might not have a personal injury claim to make.

Similarly, not all personal injury claims necessarily involve you submitting a bodily injury claim directly to an insurance company. For instance, if you slip and fall in a grocery store, the grocer’s general commercial liability (GCL) insurance might cover their legal liability for your bodily injury. But your lawyer might decide to sue the grocer immediately on your behalf to meet California’s two-year statute of limitations, rather than submitting a bodily injury liability claim to the store’s insurer first.

Bodily injury and personal injury claims can also differ in the compensation you can achieve from them. In a bodily injury claim, the categories and amounts of payments you can claim are defined by the terms of the insurance policy. For example, the typical workers’ compensation insurance policy covers you only against specific expenses related to a work-related bodily injury (medical care and a portion of your lost income) but not others (your pain and suffering), up to a maximum amount.

In contrast, a personal injury claim can generally seek compensation for all the harm you suffered because of someone else’s wrongdoing, including your medical and non-medical costs, past and future financial losses, physical pain, emotional suffering, and diminished quality of life.

Contact Attorney Jeff Injury Lawyers Today for Help With Your California Injury Claim

If you recently suffered an injury in California, you may have the right to receive significant compensation through a bodily injury claim or a personal injury claim. To explore your options, contact Attorney Jeff Injury Lawyers today for a free case evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bodily Injury/Personal Injury in California

How do I know if I need a lawyer for a bodily injury or personal injury claim?

Talking to a lawyer about your claim is always a good idea. And in most cases, hiring that lawyer to handle your bodily injury or personal injury claim maximizes your chances of receiving the most money possible.

Is a bodily injury/personal injury lawyer expensive?

No. You can talk to a lawyer from Attorney Jeff Injury Lawyers for free and with no obligation. We also represent clients on contingency, which means we only get paid if we win for you.

No Fee Unless We Win. Period.
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