Bodily injury and personal injury are often used interchangeably, and it’s easy to see why. If something happens to your body, isn’t that personal? If you suffer a personal injury, aren’t the chances very high that the harm will involve at least some part of your body?

While the two terms can be confusing, bodily injury and personal injury have entirely different meanings.

If you or someone you know has suffered an injury, it pays to know the difference between bodily and personal injury for legal and insurance reasons.

Bodily Injury

What is Bodily Injury?

Bodily injury deals with a particular injury to the body of an individual that was caused by another person.

Bodily Injury and the Law

You will almost always hear bodily injury referred to when discussing motor vehicle insurance coverage for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. Bodily injury liability policies are designed to compensate an injured driver, passengers, or pedestrians if they sustained injuries that resulted from the insured individual’s negligent conduct.

Compensation for Bodily Injuries

When you suffer a bodily injury, you may be entitled under the law to receive compensation for lost wages, lost earning capacity, out-of-pocket expenditures for medical treatment, and medical expenses, such as x-rays, physical therapy, and transport to the hospital.

It is also possible to receive compensation for future expenses and losses, which can arise when a person has injuries so severe that the injuries are likely to impact his or her life negatively for months or years in the future. Future losses include future loss of income, disfigurement, future therapy, impairment, and future pain and suffering.

What is a Personal Injury?

Personal injury is a term used in civil law. A personal injury claim is meant to compensate victims of accidents and intentional acts (e.g. sexual assault). The plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit is the individual who was injured.

If an accident resulted in the death of a victim, the plaintiff(s) in the case are the family survivors, such as the spouse and children. The defendant is the person whose negligence caused the injury or loss to the victim. There can also be a cross-defendant in the case, which is when the defendant asserts blame to another party.

What Injuries are Considered Personal Injuries?

Personal injury refers to an injury of the body, mind, or emotions.

Here are the most common types of personal injury claims.

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Car Accident Claims

Car accidents comprise the most personal injury cases in the U.S. When a collision occurs involving automobiles and/or pedestrians, usually it is because someone isn’t following the rules of the road. A careless driver can be held financially responsible for injuries sustained in a car accident.

Slips and Fall Claims

People slipping and falling make up another common type of personal injury case. Property and business owners (and lessees) have a legal duty to keep their premises safe and free of hazards to prevent injury. If someone slips and falls and an injury results, the other party can be sued in civil court.


Dog Bite Claims

In civil dog bite cases, dog owners can be deemed financially responsible for bites and other injuries caused by their dog. In California, the owner of the dog is responsible for their dog attacking someone. There is no need to prove negligence.

Assault & Battery

Assault and Battery is a unique type of personal injury, as it is considered an intentional tort. That is, the injuries sustained were not based on accidents through the negligence or carelessness of someone else. Rather, the injuries occurred because another person harmed the victim on purpose. The perpetrator can be tried in civil and criminal court, in some cases. An example would be if one person physically attacked another, which would bring criminal charges. The victim could then also file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court to demand compensation for damages incurred as a result of the attack.

What Injuries are Considered Bodily injuries?

Bodily injury refers directly to physical damage to an individual’s body, such as a cut, bruise, abrasion, burn, or disfigurement. Bodily injury can also involve physical pain, illness, impairment of the function of the body, organs, or mental faculties, and temporary injuries to the body. It also includes death if the individual passed on because of the bodily injury. Death that resulted from unexplained causes typically do not qualify.

Many commercial liability insurance policies use the words “bodily injury.” You most often hear the term discussed in policies involving commercial auto, general liability, and umbrella policies.

Some insurance policies also refer to mental anguish as a result of bodily injury. When used in this context, the term can mean shock, mental injury, fright, and humiliation. Psychological injuries are usually only included if they caused by a physical injury.

Does bodily injury include death?

Death can be included with bodily injury policies if the death resulted from the injury in question. Bodily injury can include physical injuries, but it can also include illness and disease. If the injury caused bodily injury, sickness, or disease that then resulted in death, that would qualify for compensation according to the policy. Death that results from unexplained causes would not quality in most cases.

How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Me?

If you have suffered an injury that was the result of someone else’s actions, or that person failed to take the necessary precautions to prevent your injury, then you may be able to take legal action to recover the damages you incurred.

You could file a personal injury claim yourself, but there are several excellent reasons why you should hire a personal injury lawyer to represent you.


A personal injury lawyer has likely worked with a client just like you who has suffered your type of injury. There will be no learning curve, and you can ensure that all paperwork and processes will be filed in the proper order. Most of all, an experienced attorney can inform you about what to expect as the case proceeds, and what kind of settlement you can reasonably expect.