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Understanding Combined Single Limit (CSL) and Split Limit Liability Insurance


In many states vehicle owners who purchase car insurance may have the option of purchasing a split limit auto policy or a combined single limit auto policy.  Both of these policies provide coverage for two types of liability; bodily injury and property damage.  These coverages are fairly self-explanatory; bodily injury liability provides liability protections in the event of an auto accident in which you are at fault results in the injury of a third party. Bodily injury liability can pay, (up to the policy limits), for the medical treatment of the injured party and can in some scenarios provide payment for pain and suffering which may be endured as a result of the accident.  Your property damage liability insurance provides coverage for property damage to another party’s auto which is damaged in an accident deemed to be your fault.  This could include damage to another auto, or also include damage to fences, buildings or houses that become involved in an automobile accident.

Split Limit Liability Insurance

As mentioned, many states, like Pennsylvania for example, have options to purchase a split limit or combined single limit automobile policy.  In a split limit automobile policy you will purchase a limit of liability insurance that will have three numbers.  Your declarations page of your policy may include an annotation that looks something like 250,000/500,000/250,000, for example.  In the given example, your policy would be providing you with a maximum of $250,000 of bodily injury liability per person with a maximum amount per accident of $500,000.  If you seriously injured one person in an accident you would have $250,000 of liability protection to offer them in compensation for their loss (medical expenses).  If two people were injured in the accident, your policy could provide up to $500,000 for that accident, but not more than the $250,000 limit per person.  The property damage limit of liability is independent of the bodily injury limit and paid separately.  This means if two people sustain $250,000 of medical bills each after the accident and you totaled the new $70,000 Corvette they were driving, your policy could issue a total claim payment of $570,000 in order to cover the property damage and the bodily injury losses resulting from your at fault accident.

Combined Single Limit (CSL) Liability Insurance

If the liability coverage on your auto policy is written as a combined single limit, there is no differentiation between bodily injury payouts per person, per accident, or property damage claims.  All claims are paid out of the same combined limit, up to the amount stated on your declarations.  For example, your policy may list your liability limit as $500,000 CSL.  This means that in the event that you cause an accident which results in one person sustaining bodily injury losses and medical bills totaling $400,000 you would have an adequate amount of insurance to pay for those 3rd party losses.  If your bodily injury liability coverage had been written as split limit for $250,000/$500,000, the scenario of one driver in the other vehicle sustaining $400,000 of bodily injury loss would leave you under insured by $150,000.  To the contrary, our earlier example in which two people sustained injuries totaling $250,000 each, and a property loss of $70,000 for their corvette, would leave you underinsured by $70,000 if you had selected a $500,000 CSL limit of liability.

Which is better, Split Limit or CSL?

It really depends on the specifics of the accident, and since no one has a crystal ball, the most imperative thing is to be sure that you have an adequate amount of liability coverage.  With the rising medical costs and vehicles today, sufficient liability limits must be maintained to complete a comprehensive risk management portfolio.  Oftentimes, Umbrella Liability policies can be used as an inexpensive means to increase the amount of liability insurance limit you carry when the underlying limits available on a personal auto policy are not sufficient in protecting your assets from potentially large liability settlements.

Talk with a licensed agent about the options for your auto liability to make sure you are covered adequately; the time to determine whether or not you are properly insured is before an accident occurs, not after!