Ohio Car Insurance Coverage Laws: What you Need to Know

Doug Mann

If you’re involved in a car crash, the expenses involved can be huge. Fixing your car is expensive enough, and the bill skyrockets if someone gets hurt. That’s why we have auto insurance. It can cover the costs of a wreck so that you don’t have to. Of course, not all insurance is created equal. Let’s take a look at Ohio’s laws on car insurance.

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Table of Contents
  1. Ohio’s Financial Responsibility Law
  2. Ohio Car Insurance Coverage Requirements
  3. Know Your Coverage
  4. Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists
  5. What to Do Before an Accident — and After
  6. Filing A Claim
  7. What Can Go Wrong With My Car Insurance Claim?
  8. What If They Deny My Claim Or Won’t Pay Enough?
  9. What If I Don’t Have Car Insurance?
  10. We Can Help

Ohio’s Financial Responsibility Law

All states have some form of financial responsibility law that requires drivers to carry liability insurance coverage. The Ohio Revised Code Section 4509.101 prohibits any person from operating or permitting the operation of a motor vehicle in Ohio without maintaining proof of financial responsibility continuously throughout the registration period with respect to that vehicle, or in the case of a driver who is not the owner, with respect to that driver’s operation of that vehicle. That’s a lot of legalese that boils down to the fact that you’re legally required to have auto insurance.

Ohio Car Insurance Coverage Requirements

The law requires insurance coverage in the minimum amount of $25,000 for bodily injury to or death of one individual in any one accident, $50,000 for bodily injury to or death of two or more individuals in any one accident, and $25,000 for injury to the property of others in any one accident. Effective March 23, 2015, a person can present proof of financial responsibility through the use of an electronic wireless communications device as defined within the code section. That means you can show your proof of insurance on your smartphone and you don’t have to worry about keeping that little slip of paper in your glove compartment.

Know Your Coverage

Do you have comprehensive coverage or just liability? Comprehensive means you carry coverage over both your vehicle as well as the statutory liability coverage for other vehicles. Do you have minimum limits or higher? The type of car insurance coverage you carry is important for a variety of reasons. It determines whether your personal property will be covered in the event you are involved in an accident and are at fault. It determines if and to what extent you will be covered if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured or “underinsured” motorist and he or she is at fault. Finally, the type and amount of coverage you have determines how much you might have to pay out of your own pocket to any other party involved in an accident if you are at fault.

In Ohio, even if you are at fault for the accident and you have a comprehensive policy, your carrier will pay out up to your coverage limits regardless of your fault, contingent upon any applicable policy exclusions.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists

While Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist coverage is not required in Ohio and can cost a little extra each month, it can be a sound investment. Why does that extra coverage matter?

Example 1:

Assume that you were hit by a young, single mother who has very little income and carries only the minimum limits required by law, $25,000. Now assume your medical bills are $50,000, and you have been off from work due to your accident-related injuries for six months. This is where underinsured motorist coverage kicks in. Whatever you have designated for your coverage above that $25,000, your carrier will pay out. That way you’re covered even though the other driver’s insurance isn’t enough.

Example 2:

Assume you were driving toward a traffic signal when the light turned red. You slowed down to stop. However, the man behind you drove along with no car insurance as he texted and slammed into the back of your vehicle. You sustained property damage in excess of $10,000, medical bills in excess of $9,000, and you were out of work for four weeks. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, your own insurance will cover the damage. If not, you’ll have to sue him to try to collect reimbursement for your expenses.

Remember that in both of the above hypotheticals, your insurance company will require you to assign your rights to sue the responsible parties over to the insurance company. In other words, the insurance company will take over your right to sue.

What to Do Before an Accident — and After

Before you or your family member is involved in an automobile accident, you need to be prepared.

  • Always ensure you have your insurance card with you when you are driving. If you give permission to someone to drive your vehicle, make sure that individual carries his or her own insurance coverage.
  • Remember that your car insurance follows the vehicle. So, even if you give your friend permission to operate your vehicle and they carry their own coverage, in an accident, their coverage is secondary to yours! What does that mean? If your driver was at fault, your insurance coverage will pay out first, then their coverage pays any remainder.
  • After an accident, the first priority for everyone is medical attention. Obviously, if you are involved in or witness to a serious accident, and are capable, call 911.
  • If there are no immediate medical emergencies, you should make a record: take photographs of all vehicles, and the surroundings, including any traffic signals, intersections, conditions of the road, etc.
  • Once you have photographs, get the insurance information of the other drivers involved in the accident. With today’s technology, snap a photo with your phone. Then, prior to leaving the scene if possible, contact that insurance carrier and confirm that the driver is indeed covered. Many people may have an insurance card for insurance coverage that has actually been suspended due to non-payment. It is better to know this at the scene so that you can make the police aware of the fact. Remember, in Ohio, failure to comply with the financial responsibility law can result in civil penalties, including, but not limited to suspension of driving privileges.

It’s always best to be prepared before an accident. To make sure you have everything you need, check out our Car Crash Kit and Checklist. It’s a handy guide for everything you’ll need after an accident.

Filing A Claim

If you get in a crash, the first step is to make sure everyone gets the necessary medical attention and is in a safe place away from the road. Once everyone is safe, you can start dealing with the crash itself. Talk to the other driver and exchange insurance information. Make sure you get the make, model, and license plate number of their vehicle. If possible, call their insurance company while you’re still at the scene to make sure they’re actually insured. Take lots of photos and video of the scene of the accident and get contact information from any witnesses to the crash. You should also take a copy of the police report.

Some of this isn’t going to be possible if you end up needing medical attention, but try to get as complete a record of the crash as you can. If you do end up needing medical attention, keep complete records about it – diagnoses, test results, x rays, etc. That’s information you’ll need when you go to deal with the insurance.

Once you have all the records of the crash, it’s time to deal with filing a claim:

Step 1: Contact Your Insurer

You’ll need to contact your insurer as soon as possible – ideally, while you’re still at the scene of the crash. They’ll give you a list of everything you’ll need to file a claim and may ask you to take certain steps before you leave the scene (they may ask that you call the police if you haven’t already, for example).

Step 2: Inspection

Now that you’ve started the claims process, you’ll need to take your car to the shop and get an estimate for the cost of repairs. Your insurer may want you to go to a specific shop; you may also want to shop around to make sure you’re getting a fair price.

Step 3: The Insurance Adjuster

You’ll need to send all the information and documentation you have about the crash (including the repair estimate and medical bills) to the insurance company. Then, a claims adjuster will review the whole pile to figure out who was at fault and what the insurance company will cover. They’re looking at two issues – coverage for your expenses and coverage for the other party’s expenses.

Note that if you have more than liability insurance, you can choose whether you want your insurance or the other person’s insurance to cover your claim. Having the other party’s insurance cover it means you won’t have the deductible but your own insurance may handle things quicker and more smoothly. You’ll also have more dispute resolution options with your own insurer. And, in many cases, your insurer will be able to get your deductible back from the other insurer.

Step 4: Bills Get Paid (Hopefully)

In a perfect world, the claims process would run smoothly, your insurer would determine what they’ll cover and what the other insurer is covering, and the bills would get paid. You’d be back on the road in no time. The reality is a little messier.

First, you may not get full coverage (more on that below). And you may have to pay even if you are covered. If you caused the accident and you have liability insurance, you’re going to have to pay for your own expenses (your insurance will pay for the other party). And you’re going to have to pay your deductible even if you have more than liability coverage. Depending on your policy, that could be thousands of dollars.

If you’re not at fault and the other driver is insured and that insurer covers your claim, or if you have more than liability insurance and your insurer covers your claim, you’re in good shape. Of course, not all drivers are insured – we’ll talk about that a little later on.

What Can Go Wrong With My Car Insurance Claim?

Insurance companies do not want to pay for anyone’s medical bills or car repairs – the less they pay out, the more money they get to keep. So they’re going to try to pay for as little as possible. Most commonly, they’ll try to deny your claim and/or argue that the other driver was at fault.

Denying Coverage

The coverage for your expenses is going to depend on the type of insurance you have and who was at fault. If you have liability insurance and you’re at fault, you’re going to have to pay for your own medical bills and car repairs. If you have comprehensive insurance and you’re at fault, insurance will pay for those expenses.

But your expenses aren’t the only ones at issue – the other driver is going to have bills as well. So where do they come in? The big issue here is who is at fault. Basically, the insurance of the person that caused the accident has to foot the bill for the other person’s expenses.  If you were at fault, your insurance company is typically going to have to pay for the other drivers’ expenses. If the other driver was at fault, your insurance company will work with the other driver’s insurer and they’ll have to pay for your expenses.

So far, so good. But remember, the insurers don’t want to pay. There are a number of ways they can pinch pennies here. First, they may try to deny coverage entirely for part or all of your claim. That often comes down to fine print in your insurance policy. Some policies explicitly state that they don’t cover certain kinds of issues – like damage to your car if you crash while you’re off-roading. So make sure you know exactly what’s in your policy and that you’re following their rules.

They may try to argue that some of your medical care wasn’t actually related to the crash and they shouldn’t have to pay for it. Or they may argue that your car was already damaged, so they shouldn’t have to pay for all of the repairs. Depending on who was at fault and whose insurance is covering your bills, you may actually have these fights with both insurers.

Fighting Over Who Is At Fault

As we mentioned above, the insurance company of the person who caused the accident has to pay. So your insurer wants the other driver to be at fault, and vice versa. Sometimes it’s really obvious who is at fault – like a drunk driver running a red light. Sometimes it’s not that obvious, and the insurers will want to duke it out.

That can mean a legal battle. Your insurer will likely take the lead on that front, but it can mean long delays, court appearances, and other inconveniences before your claim is finally handled.

What If They Deny My Claim Or Won’t Pay Enough?

The insurer may not want to give you the full value you think your claim is worth. If that’s the case, most insurers have an appeal or review process. That’s a pretty easy first step; you just need to call them and tell them you want your claim to be reviewed again and you may need to fill out a bit of paperwork. You can also ask to go to dispute resolution. That may involve mediation or arbitration, depending on the company’s policies. Before you agree to anything during that process, consider talking to a lawyer. In some cases, you may have the right to sue your insurer.

Whether you caused the accident or not, you can also take the insurer to court. That means bringing in an attorney; most offer a free consultation to help you decide if a lawsuit is a good option for your case. In general, this track ends with a settlement.

What If I Don’t Have Car Insurance?

Even if you do not have insurance, you still have rights. If you have been involved in an automobile accident and the party who was at fault has insurance, contact their carrier immediately to make a claim. Keep track of your damages, your medical bills, and any other expenses you have sustained as a result of the accident. If their insurance company does not seem to be cooperating, you always have the option to sue. You can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver regardless of whether you have insurance, as long as you file your case within the statute of limitations.

If you or someone you know has sustained injuries or damages to your personal property resulting from an automobile accident, in Ohio you have two (2) years from the date of the occurrence. Once the statute of limitations has run, you will be barred from bringing any claims. So it is important to do research and talk to a professional if you have any questions before your time runs out.

We Can Help

If you’ve been involved in a car accident in Ohio, we can help. Contact us today for a free case evaluation with one of our experienced car accident attorneys.

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