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Minimum car insurance coverage requirements in the Buckeye State (and other important auto insurance basics)
Automobile liability insurance is mandated by most states, and Ohio is no different. Though the prospect of paying $141 per month (the average cost of auto insurance in Ohio in 2019) isn’t likely to get you excited, liability insurance might just protect you from financial ruin.
Ohio has almost 8 million licensed drivers. In 2018, there were more than 65,000 vehicle crashes, more than 17,000 of which resulted in serious injury.
If you cause a car crash in Ohio and don’t have insurance, the injured person may be able to file a lawsuit against you personally, potentially garnishing your wages and even take your home.
Here at Enjuris, we don’t want to see you suffer financially. With that in mind, let’s take a look at auto insurance laws in the Buckeye State, including what to do if you’re hit by an uninsured driver.
Ohio’s fault-based insurance system
Ohio has a fault-based insurance system.
This means that the person responsible for causing a car crash is also responsible for paying for the damages. (This is different than a no-fault insurance system in which all drivers in an accident, no matter who’s responsible, turn to their own insurance policies to cover the damages.)
What does this mean for you?
If you’re injured in a car accident in Ohio, you have 3 options:
- File a claim with your own insurance company. If you chose to file a claim with your own insurance company, your insurance company will pay the claim and then turn around and pursue reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurance company (a process called “subrogation”).
- File a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If you’re not sure how to file a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, your insurance company can help. Keep in mind that the at-fault driver might dispute the claim, which may delay your payment.
- File a personal injury lawsuit in civil court against the at-fault driver. Generally, you would only file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver if your damages exceed the at-fault driver’s policy limits or you’re unhappy with the offer proposed by the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Mandatory auto liability insurance
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 1 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
What is liability insurance?
Liability insurance covers bodily injuries and property damage caused by the insured individual and sustained by someone other than the insured.
In other words, if you cause a car accident, your liability insurance pays for the other person’s damages. If the other person’s damages exceed your policy limits, you are responsible for paying those damages out of your own pocket.
Let’s say you’re responsible for a 3-car accident. The person in car #1 suffers $50,000 in damages and the person in car #2 suffers $30,000 in damages.
If you have the minimum amount of liability coverage, your insurance will only pay $25,000 per person, with a limit of $50,000 for the entire accident. As a result, your insurance would pay $25,000 to the person in car #1 and $25,000 to the person in car #2. You would then be personally responsible for paying the remaining $25,000 to the person in car #1 and the remaining $5,000 to the person in car #2. If you don’t pay the amounts voluntarily, the injured parties can file a lawsuit against you in order to receive the full amount.
Penalties for driving uninsured in Ohio
The biggest reason to carry liability insurance is the financial devastation you’ll face if you cause an accident. However, there are additional penalties for being uninsured in the Buckeye State, regardless of whether you’re involved in an accident or not.
|Penalties for not meeting Ohio’s car insurance requirements|
|First offense||Potential fines imposed by the court||Driver’s license suspended until all requirements are met||$160 restoration fee for vehicle registration and license plates|
|Second offense||Potential fines imposed by the court||Driver’s license suspended for 1 year||$360 restoration fee for vehicle registration and license plates|
|Third offense||Potential fines imposed by the court||Driver’s license suspended for 2 years||$660 restoration fee for vehicle registration and license plates|
|Source: Ohio Revised Code: 4507.212, 4509.101|
What happens if the other driver doesn’t have liability insurance?
Even though liability insurance is mandatory in Ohio, roughly 12% of Ohio drivers are uninsured.
So what happens if you’re involved in an accident caused by an uninsured motorist?
Drivers in Ohio can purchase optional 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.
If you don’t have UM or UIM coverage and you’re involved in an accident caused by an uninsured driver, you can file a lawsuit against the driver. The problem with this strategy is that drivers who don’t carry insurance generally don’t have the money to satisfy a judgment either.
Optional car insurance coverage in Ohio
While your liability insurance covers damages sustained by other people involved in an accident, it doesn’t cover your damages. For this reason, you may want to consider purchasing optional insurance coverage.
Some common types of optional auto insurance in Ohio include:
- Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage provides up to $10,000 in coverage regardless of who’s at fault
- MedPay coverage provides coverage for medical expenses incurred by you or your passengers regardless of who’s at fault
- Comprehensive coverage provides coverage for losses other than those caused by a collision (vandalism, falling objects, etc.)
What happens if my insurance company is acting unreasonably?
Your insurer owes you a number of duties, including:
- The duty to defend: Your insurance company is responsible for hiring a lawyer to defend you against a claim on your policy (so long as your policy might provide coverage for the claim).
- The duty to indemnify: Your insurance company must pay for the losses you’re legally liable for (up to your policy limits).
In addition, your insurance company (and the at-fault driver’s insurance company) have a duty to “act reasonably.” Examples of acting unreasonably include denying a legitimate insurance claim, failing to act promptly with respect to an insurance claim, failing to investigate a claim, and misrepresenting relevant facts or insurance policy provisions.
Still have questions about Ohio car insurance laws? Arrange a free consultation with an attorney in your area today.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.