Guide to Ohio Car Accidents

What you need to know about insurance requirements, proving fault, and steps to take after a car accident

Car accidents aren't treated the same in Ohio as they are in other states. Here's what you need to know to recover damages following an accident in the Buckeye State.

The first American gasoline-powered automobile was made in Ohio by John Lambert in 1891. Unfortunately, the vehicle burst into flames before it was road tested...

Thirteen years later, Harry Myers of Dayton, Ohio received the first speeding ticket for traveling at the breakneck speed of 12 miles per hour.

Needless to say, Ohioans have a long and complicated relationship with automobiles. This complicated relationship continues today. Ohio manufactures more automobiles than any other state (with the exception of Michigan), but it also sits well above the national average when it comes to total car accidents and fatalities.

If you're involved in a car accident in the Buckeye State, here are some things you should know.

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Ohio car crash statistics

Every year, approximately 1.3 million people die in car accidents worldwide. In the United States, Ohio is considered one of the most dangerous states to drive. This is particularly true in the winter, when Ohio routinely ranks in the top 5 states for car accident fatalities.

Ohio car crash statistics (2014-2018)
Crashes investigated 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 5-year total
Total crashes 68,904 69,350 66,395 65,140 65,067 334,856
Fatal crashes 452 506 511 5,444 498 2,511
Injury crashes 19,200 19,646 19,547 18,832 17,853 95,078
Property damage 49,252 49,198 46,337 45,764 46,716 237,267

Source: Ohio State Highway Patrol

Ohio is one of the 5 most dangerous states to drive in the winter.
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Types of car crash damages

Depending on the circumstances of the accident, including how fast the cars were traveling and whether the occupants were wearing seatbelts, injuries can range from minor scrapes and bruises to death.

Common car accident injuries include:

Ohio awards both economic and noneconomic damages. "Economic damages" refer to monetary losses resulting from an accident. "Noneconomic damages" refer to losses that don't have a clear dollar value, but are worthy of compensation regardless.

Here's a breakdown of what's included in these 2 categories:

Types of damages in Ohio
Economic damages Noneconomic damages
Property damage Pain and suffering
Medical expenses (including future expenses) Emotional distress
Lost income Loss of consortium
Other out of pocket costs Other non-monetary losses

Notably, noneconomic damages are capped in Ohio. Specifically, noneconomic damages for noncatastrophic injuries are capped at the greater of:

  • $250,000, or
  • 3 times the economic damages awarded (capped at $350,000).

Again, these caps don't apply to catastrophic injuries, which include permanent deformities (such as an amputation) and injuries that prevent the injured person from caring for themselves (such as a traumatic brain injury).

Ohio places a cap on the noneconomic damages that can be recovered in a car accident.
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Determining fault for a car accident

All drivers have a legal duty to drive with "reasonable care" and to obey all traffic laws. If a driver violates that duty and causes an accident, the driver can be sued for negligence.

To prove negligence in Ohio, you must prove that:

  • The other driver owed you a duty. All drivers owe others on the road a duty to drive with a reasonable degree of care.
  • The other driver breached their duty. To prove this, you'll have to show that the driver failed to drive with a reasonable degree of care. For example, if the driver was texting while driving or they ran a red light, then they breached their duty of care.
  • You suffered damages as a result of the driver's breach. You must show that the driver's actions (for example, running a red light) caused the accident. In other words, but for the driver's actions, the accident wouldn't have occurred and you wouldn't have suffered damages.

Common examples of actions that lead to a car accident lawsuit based on negligence include:

  • Operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Distracted driving
  • Violating a traffic law (such as running a red light or speeding)
  • Driver fatigue
Enjuris tip: Automobiles that transport people and goods for compensation (such as taxis, buses and commercial trucks) are classified as "common carriers." In Ohio, common carriers have a duty to drive with the "highest degree" of care, as opposed to a "reasonable degree" of care. Because of this, it's generally easier to make out a negligence claim against a common carrier than another private vehicle.

Car accident statute of limitations

The term "statute of limitations" refers to the maximum amount of time a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit from the date of the alleged offense.

In Ohio, the statute of limitations for a claim based on injury to a person or injury to personal property is 2 years. That means the plaintiff must file a lawsuit within 2 years of the car accident or the plaintiff loses their right to file a lawsuit altogether.

In Ohio, a plaintiff has 2 years from the date of a car accident to file a lawsuit based on physical or emotional injuries, or damage to personal property.
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Auto insurance requirements in Ohio

In Ohio, it's illegal to drive a motor vehicle without the following minimum amounts of liability insurance:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury or death of one person in an accident
  • $50,000 for total bodily injury or death in an accident (i.e., for all persons harmed in one accident)
  • $25,000 for property damage per accident

If you're involved in a car accident with someone who doesn't have insurance, you can sue the at-fault driver directly. In addition, drivers in Ohio can purchase uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage with their car insurance policies:

  • Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage provides coverage for bodily injury and property damage sustained by you or the passengers in your vehicle as a result of an accident involving a driver who has insufficient insurance to cover the damages.
  • Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage provides coverage for bodily injury and property damage sustained by you or the passengers in your vehicle as a result of an accident involving a driver who has insufficient insurance to cover the damages.

Steps to take after a car accident

Following a car accident in Ohio, there are some steps you're required by law to take, and other steps that are in your best interest to take.

Let's take a look.

Step 1: Stop your vehicle

In Ohio, the driver of any vehicle involved in a motor vehicle accident that results in any damage must:

  • Stop their vehicle at the scene or as close to the scene as possible,
  • Exchange information (name and address, registration number, and driver's license), and
  • Render reasonable assistance to any injured persons.

The penalties for failing to stop and render aid can range from a fine to significant jail time.

Step 2: Call the police

You might not think your accident warrants a call to the police. However, calling the police—even for minor accidents—is generally a good idea.

The police can help by:

  • Diffusing any road rage situations
  • Keeping the parties safe (from nearby traffic)
  • Writing a police report that might help support your insurance claim or lawsuit
  • Collecting contact information for the other driver (and helping to prevent the other driver from giving you false information)
  • Identifying witnesses and collecting witness contact information
Enjuris tip: If you're worried about tying up the phone lines for a non-emergency, you can call the non-emergency telephone number for your local police department (as opposed to dialing 9-1-1). In some communities, this number is 3-1-1. In other communities, this number is a 10-digit number. If you don't know the non-emergency number for the area, call 4-1-1 and ask the operator.

Step 3: Collect witness information

Witnesses are notoriously difficult to track down after an accident. As a result, you'll want to gather all the evidence you can at the time of the accident. This includes the following information from every witness:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • A telephone number of a close friend or family member (in case the witness's telephone number changes)
Enjuris tip: The police can help you identify witnesses and collect their contact information, but don't completely rely on the police. The responding officer doesn't have the same motivation to support your version of events as you do. If you think there's a witness the officer missed, politely point the witness out to the police officer or collect their information yourself.

Step 4: Take pictures and gather any other evidence

Our memories aren't always reliable. If you weren't responsible for the accident, write down what happened as soon as possible. In addition, be sure to take photographs of the scene, as well as any damage to your vehicle or body.

Step 5. Notify your insurer

If the car accident was your fault, you'll want to file a claim with your insurance provider. If the accident wasn't your fault, you can either file a claim with the at-fault party's insurance provider or with your own insurance provider. If you file a claim with your own insurance provider, they'll seek reimbursement from the at-fault party's insurance provider.

Enjuris tip: Be sure to notify your insurance provider about the accident as soon as possible. Most insurance policies require you to report an accident within a specified time period. If you fail to do so, you risk having your claim rejected.

Step 6. Talk to an attorney

After you report the accident, there will be an investigation and your claim will either be rejected or the insurance provider will make an offer. Before accepting any offer, consider talking to an attorney to make sure you're getting a fair offer that fully compensates you for past, current and future expenses.

Remember, once you accept an offer (and sign a release), you can't sue for more money at a later date. This can be a huge problem if you later discover that your injuries are worse than you thought. An attorney can help make sure you get everything you deserve.

Step 7: Document everything

The best thing you can do for your claim is to keep good records. In addition to keeping copies of driver information, witness information, and any photographs you may have taken, this means keeping track of your medical expenses and the day-to-day impact of your injuries.

Damages/Expenses Worksheet
Damages worksheet to track expenses for your injury claim (medical treatment, property damage, lost wages, prescriptions)
Download in PDF format

Post-Accident Journal Form
Sample accident journal/diary to help you document the effect on your daily life
Download in PDF format

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