What are combined single limits on car insurance policies?

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Here's what you need to know...
  • Not all insurance companies offer combined limits as an option
  • Only hindsight will determine which is a better option for you
  • If your insurer offers combined limits, it is something you should consider


Combined single limits insurance basically combines all of your liability coverage into one lump sum versus liability where coverage is split amongst different incidents.

While most liability auto insurance is purchased as split liability, it is also possible to purchase combined single limits on a car insurance policy.

Combined single limits (CSL), is usually used for commercial auto insurance, but some companies offer it for private car insurance as well.

The benefits to each type of policy ultimately depend on the amount of coverage and the type of accident you have. Unfortunately, hindsight is the only way of knowing which insurance is really better for you.

Read on to learn all about combined single limits in auto insurance policies. Then, to find the very best auto insurance policy for you, just enter your zip code into our free rate finder and you will find cheap car insurance in no time!

Split Liability for Car Insurance

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Split liability is the most common car insurance policy that is used for personal coverage. If your car insurance policy states liability as 50/100/40 or another series of three numbers, then that denotes split liability.

States that require liability coverage will also specify the minimum limits as split amounts. This does not mean you cannot buy combined single limits coverage if you so choose, provided the combined amount is equal to or greater than the state’s minimum requirements.

There are always three amounts specified in split liability requirements and policies. The amounts are the maximum policy limits, to the thousands, that is paid out to the other party if you are at fault for the accident.

It is important to note that the insured does not receive any benefit personally from the liability payout.

The first amount denotes bodily injury for a single person, the second amount denotes bodily injury for multiple persons combined, and the third amount denotes property damages. In car insurance policies, bodily injury also includes death.

The difference between a single person and multiple persons is usually just double the coverage.

If your coverage is 50/100/40 and one person is injured then the most your insurance company will pay out is $50,000.

However, if more than one person is injured, then the most your insurance company will pay to the injured parties combined is $100,000.

For property damage, this payout refers to the other person’s car or any other property that you may have damaged. If you drive your car into someone’s house, then the property portion of your liability coverage will be used for payout.

In an accident where both bodily injuries and property damage are sustained, then your split liability will pay out up to the maximum of each incident as denoted in the limits.

Using the 50/100/40 limits, if you rear-end someone and smash their car and give the driver whiplash, then your car insurance liability coverage will pay out up to $50,000 for medical bills and up to $40,000 for the damage to their car.

An alternative option to split liability is combined single limits. This option is not always available, but you can ask your agent about it and see if it is something you want to consider.

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Combined Single Limits for Car Insurance

Combined single limits car insurance is an alternative to split liability insurance. As seen above, split liability coverage specifically states the amount of payout for bodily injury and property damage.

Combined single limit, on the other hand, combines the coverage for all of your liability insurance.

The payout for combined single limit insurance encompasses bodily injury for a single person, bodily injury for multiple persons, and property damage all under one combined policy limit.

As with split liability, combined single limits does not provide any payout to the insured. Rather, it is intended to compensate another party’s injuries and damages if you are at fault for an accident.

The way it differs from split liability is in the breakout of claims. Unlike split liability where there is a set amount for injury and another amount for property, combined single limits has one large amount that can be used in any way.

If someone who has a combined single limits insurance policy rear ends someone and causes injury, the insurance company is liable to pay out up to the coverage limits, regardless of how much cost is assigned to bodily injury and property damage separately.

If you have a $100,000 combined single limits policy, then that is the most that your car insurance company will payout.

It does not matter how much of it goes to a single person for bodily injury, multiple persons for bodily injury, or how much of it gets designated to property damage.

Since the payout is only determined at the time of the accident, it is difficult to decide which policy is more beneficial. Both combined single limits and split liability each have potentially better benefits than the other.

Below is an example of the same scenario, paid two different ways, to get a better understanding of how the payouts work.

An Example of Combined Single Limits and Split Liability Limits on Car Insurance

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– Split Liability

Joe insures his car for split liability maximum coverage amounts of 50/100/40. In a freak accident, he runs another car off the road, totaling the car, someone’s residential property, and seriously injuring two people in the car he hit.

The medical bill of the driver is $48,000 and the medical bill of the passenger is $55,000. The maximum combined bodily injury payout on this split liability policy is $100,000, leaving Joe responsible for the remaining $3,000 in medical bills.

The car that Joe hit was totaled by the insurance company for $35,000 and the fence he knocked down cost $3,000 to repair.

The property damage on Joe’s liability covers the total cost of the $38,000 combined so he has no additional out of pocket expense for property. Joe’s total out of pocket expense for this accident is $3,000.

– Combined Single Limits

Joe insures his car for combined single limits of $150,000. In a freak accident, he runs another car off the road, totaling the car, someone’s residential property, and seriously injuring two people in the car he hit.

The medical bill of the driver is $48,000 and the medical bill of the passenger is $55,000. The combined medical payments total $103,000.

The car that Joe hit was totaled by the insurance company for $35,000 and the fence he knocked down cost $3,000 to repair. The combined property damage totals $38,000.

Between bodily injury and property damage, the total claim amount is $141,000. Since Joe has combined single limits for $150,000 his insurance company will pay out the entire amount of the claim and Joe will not be out of pocket at all for this accident.

While the above example demonstrates savings on the combined single limits policy, the caveat is in the amount of the coverage selected.

  • If Joe had purchased only $100,000 combined single limits, then he would have been out of pocket for $41,000. The same is true for the limits selected on the split liability.
  • Had Joe only bought 25/50/20, he would have been out of pocket $53,000 on bodily injury and $18,000 on property damage, for a total of $71,000.

The best way to make the two plans parallel is to select similar amounts of coverage. If split liability is 50/100/40, then you are looking at a total combined payout of $100,000 medical and $40,000 property, so a combined single limit of $140,000 would be comparable.

Even though split liability is common, it may not always be the most economical insurance plan. If your car insurance agent offers combined single limits, it may be worth considering.

However, without having a crystal ball it is really hard to determine which coverage will benefit you the most.

Unless you purchase very high coverage for combined single limits, such as double the split liability coverage, then you won’t know for sure which method suits your needs better.

The best approach is to study your options and consider all angles and then make an educated decision on which type of insurance coverage to buy. You can use the car insurance quote tool on this page to help you start comparing different rates now!

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