Personal Injury vs Bodily Injury

What Is The Difference Between Bodily Injury and Personal Injury In California?

Authored by:

Attorney William Green from Delfino Green & Green Law


William Green
Mr. Green has made a career of championing the rights of the most vulnerable members of society against the most powerful corporations, government entities, and insurance companies. Where most attorneys take on “a case,” Mr. Green takes on clients and their cause.

Reviewed by:


Delfino Green & Green
For over 30 years, the highly skilled and experienced attorneys at Delfino Green & Green have been protecting the rights of individuals throughout California. We work hard to hold negligent parties accountable for their actions that caused injuries, insurance companies responsible for their promises to pay disability benefits, and employers accountable for their commitment to protecting their employees in the workplace.


At Delfino, Green & Green, we believe that all injury victims deserve access to expert legal representation, regardless of their financial situation. That’s why if we decide to take on your case, you don’t pay until we win. Contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Until you’ve been seriously injured in an accident, it’s hard to imagine the toll it takes on your life. Rather than a singular, contained event, a major accident can produce a ripple effect of consequences for years to come. As a result, injury victims can find themselves wading through losses long after their immediate physical injuries have healed. They may be saddled with insurmountable medical debt, or they may have lost their ability to work at their previous job. They may even suffer from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the ordeal. Regardless of how their losses manifest, you can bet that accident victims continue to suffer in ways that aren’t always apparent to everyone. In light of that fact, ask yourself this: Shouldn’t the party who caused the accident be responsible for making them whole again? We think so. If you’ve sustained injuries caused by someone else, you may be able to secure compensation through a lawsuit. However, if you’re like most people, you’re not totally sure where to start. You may even be confused about which legal terms apply to your situation. This article will explain one of the first distinctions you’ll need to make: personal injury vs. bodily injury. Keep reading to learn more about your legal situation, your options and how our personal injury attorneys may be able to help you secure the compensation you deserve. Ready to protect your future? As a premier law firm in the Bay Area, we have the resources and expertise needed to win. Call us at (415) 442-4646 to set up a free case evaluation with one of our compassionate attorneys today. 

Personal Injury vs. Bodily Injury: Why Does It Matter?

The legal field is complex, and so is its terminology. Outside of the law, the terms “bodily injury” and “personal injury” could be interpreted as meaning the same thing: an injury sustained on one’s body or “person.” Legally speaking, however, the terms have different meanings—and implications. If you’ve sustained serious injuries and are considering taking legal action, it’s important to get at least a rough idea about the process ahead of you. Understanding the distinction between personal and bodily injury may help you answer many questions, including the following:
  • Should I pursue a civil lawsuit?
  • Will I be compensated through insurance claim or through a lawsuit?
  • What type of compensation am I eligible to receive?
  • What will I have to prove in order to receive compensation?
The first step to mapping your legal journey starts with understanding why your accident happened, who is responsible and how to get the help you deserve to recover. To get started, let’s review how California defines a bodily injury.

What Is a Bodily Injury in California?

Cornell Law School defines bodily injury as “a cut, abrasion, bruise, burn, or disfigurement; physical pain; illness; impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty; or any other injury to the body, no matter how temporary.” Unlike “personal injury” this term may refer to injuries sustained by victims of assault or similar crimes. Whereas “personal injuries” may be used in both insurance claims and civil lawsuits, “bodily injury” is most commonly seen in the context of insurance claims.

Bodily Injury Claims

California law requires drivers to carry bodily injury liability insurance at a minimum of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident. As a result, “bodily injury” is often used in the context of car accidents. This type of insurance coverage generally pays for the other party’s damages if you were the cause of the accident. If you are the injured party in an accident, the at-fault party’s insurance policy should pay for your physical injuries and potentially more. However, it’s important to remember that insurance adjusters represent the insurance company, and their main priority is the bottom line—not you. They frequently lowball injury victims, so don’t feel obligated to accept their offer. The best thing to do in these scenarios is to speak with an experienced Bay Area car accident lawyer about your case. They can investigate your situation and help you draft a demand letter that accurately reflects your losses. In many cases, the insurance company would rather issue a fair settlement than potentially face litigation.

What Is a Personal Injury in California?

Rather than referring to a type of bodily harm, the term “personal injury” is most frequently used to describe a type of civil lawsuit. Personal injury lawsuits exist primarily to provide monetary compensation to accident victims rather than to punish the alleged at-fault party. In these cases, the injured party who is bringing the lawsuit is called the plaintiff, and the alleged at-fault party is called the defendant. Personal injury claims can arise from a variety of accidents, from premises liability to motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice cases and much, much more.

Proving Negligence

The plaintiff’s burden of proof is generally lower in personal injury cases than it is in criminal cases involving the same injuries. Most personal injuries are the result of reckless actions, and plaintiffs claiming negligence will need to demonstrate the following key elements:
  • The defendant’s duty of care
  • The defendant’s breach of duty
  • Actual causation
  • Proximate causation
  • Actual damages
If the plaintiff wins their personal injury lawsuit, they will receive a settlement. The amount of compensation they receive will be based on multiple factors, including the percentage of fault attributable to the defendant.

Personal Injury vs. Bodily Injury FAQ

We get it: Navigating legal terminology can be difficult. Luckily, injury victims don’t have to do it alone; an experienced Bay Area injury lawyer can lay out your legal options. If you’re wondering what to do after a serious accident, it’s a good idea to seek out legal advice. In the meantime, check out our answers to a few of our most frequently asked questions.  
  • What types of compensation can I receive in a personal injury lawsuit?
Unlike insurance settlements, settlements issued through a personal injury lawsuit can cover a broad range of losses. You may be able to receive compensation for both economic and non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, lost wages, disability, disfigurement, medical bills, other medical expenses such as physical therapy, property damage, mental anguish, lost quality of life and more.  
  • Do I need a car accident lawyer for my bodily injury claim? 
You don’t need a car accident lawyer in order to receive a bodily injury settlement from an car insurance company, but you might benefit from one. Remember: Auto insurance companies are businesses, and adjusters are incentivized to pay out as little as possible. However, they also want to avoid litigation, so working with a car accident lawyer and litigator may ultimately be your best move.  
  • How much does it cost to hire a personal injury lawyer? 
Most people don’t realize that personal injury lawyers don’t require any sort of retainer fee or payment upfront. Most work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that their payment comes out of the final settlement, and if they don’t win, you don’t pay.  
  • What is my personal injury lawsuit worth?
It’s normal to wonder how much money you could potentially win in a personal injury lawsuit, but the reality is that it’s impossible to know without reviewing the details of your case. In general, the more substantial your losses, the more compensation you may be eligible to receive.

Delfino, Green & Green: Premier Personal Injury Law Firm in the Bay Area

No one should have to suffer because of someone else’s reckless actions. Regardless of what type of accident you were involved in, the compassionate attorneys at Delfino, Green & Green are here for you. And the best part? Getting started with us is as simple as scheduling a free case evaluation through our website. Prefer to speak on the phone? We’d love to hear from you! Give us a call at (415) 442-4646 to schedule an appointment with one of our legal experts today.
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