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Bodily injury vs. personal injury: what’s the difference?

Amy Beardsley image
By Amy Beardsley
Jun 17, 2021 min read

You probably don’t spend much time thinking about the difference between bodily injury vs. personal injury as a small business owner. (Unless, of course, your business operates in the legal arena.)

For most of us, the terms blur together as part of the “legalese” in an insurance policy. However, they are two very different things.

Knowing the difference between personal injuries vs. bodily injuries can help you protect your small business. It helps you determine whether your business needs to put new policies and procedures in place or add coverage to get the protection it needs.

Luckily, commercial general liability insurance covers both kinds of claims. 

To better protect you and your business, it helps to understand the difference.

What is bodily injury?

Bodily injury is exactly what it sounds like: An injury to the body.

It can describe cuts, disfigurement, broken bones, sickness or disease, “including death resulting from any of these at any time,” according to the Insurance Services Office (ISO).

It’s covered in your general liability insurance policy up to your policy limits. 

Let’s say a customer sues you or your business after getting hurt in your store or on your property. 

Your liability coverage can pay for medical bills, ongoing treatment and lost wages. 

Example of bodily injury

Let’s say it’s 5 p.m. on a Friday, and you’re getting ready to close up shop for the day. Because rain has been falling steadily for several hours, the doormat in the entryway is soaked. 

A last-minute customer comes in, slips on the wet mat, and breaks their arm in the fall.

The break happened in your store, making you responsible for damages. 

Luckily, you have insurance coverage for bodily injury. Your policy can pay for the customer’s medical expenses, follow-up care, and lost income from missing work.

Sometimes, having this coverage can prevent a customer from suing after an injury. But even if you end up in court, the proper coverage helps cover legal costs and court awards.

How to protect your small business from bodily injury claims

The best protection against legal action is preventing the incidents. Here are a few tips to help avoid bodily injury liability claims:

  • Inspect your premises regularly to spot potential hazards.
  • Clean and maintain your tools and equipment.
  • Keep a record of inspections and document repairs.
  • Post warning signs for hazardous conditions such as wet floors.

What is personal injury?

Personal injury includes false arrest, legal action when you did nothing wrong and when a landlord forces a tenant to move out without going through a formal eviction process.

Commercial general liability insurance usually combines coverage for personal and advertising injury. It expands your protection to include slander and libel. 

If you’re facing a personal injury case, your general liability coverage can help pay for an attorney to defend you, legal judgements and other costs.

Example of personal injury

If you’re a retail store owner, you may have a shoplifter from time to time. 

Let’s say a cashier notices a customer acting suspiciously. They didn’t see a theft but believes the customer is shoplifting by concealing merchandise under their jacket.

The cashier directs the customer to a back office and calls the manager. While waiting for the store manager to arrive on-site, the cashier tells the customer they can’t leave. 

This situation could deprive a person of their liberties. If the store detains the customer for a long time and doesn’t contact the police while waiting for the manager to arrive, it could be a false arrest.

That’s where personal injury insurance can help. Your small business insurance can cover your legal fees if one of your employees takes matters into their own hands and deprives a person of their freedom to leave.

How to protect your small business from personal injury claims

Following these tips, helps you avoid legal action. But, you and your employees should be prepared to handle potential personal injury situations when they occur. Train and educate your employees on policies and procedures.

  • Monitor and moderate what other people write on your website and social platforms.
  • Be quick to fix errors or negligence in your work that may damage a client’s reputation.
  • Avoid making negative statements or comments you know are not true.

How Next Insurance helps protect your business from personal injury and bodily injury claims

So, for small businesses, the rule of thumb is that bodily injury is actual physical injury — a cut, broken bone, or illness.

Personal or advertising injury primarily refers to denying someone the freedom to behave or act as they wish or damaging their reputation.

When it comes to bodily injury vs. personal injury, you can’t always control what your staff says or does. But you can take steps to mitigate your risk. 

A Next Insurance general liability policy gives you peace of mind so you can focus on running your business. It covers bodily injury and personal injury, protecting you by covering unexpected costs.


For a simple, streamlined way to get small business insurance online, get an instant quote today. You can buy coverage, get your certificate of insurance and manage your policy all online.

Amy Beardsley image
By Amy Beardsley
Amy Beardsley is a contributing writer at Next Insurance and a Content Marketing Writer specializing in small business insurance and technology. Her work has contributed to helping independent business owners drive profitable customer action through brand awareness and customer education.
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