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Automobile insurance provides significant protection for those injured in motor vehicle accidents–and for those who are responsible for motor vehicle accidents. Ohio law requires drivers to carry automobile insurance, but not everyone does. And, even those who carry the mandatory minimums under state law may not be fully protected.
How Common are Uninsured Drivers?
Every state has some motorists on the road without insurance, regardless of state requirements. How serious that problem is varies from state to state. According to one recent report, New Jersey has the lowest percentage of uninsured motorists, at 3.1%. At the other end of the spectrum, the uninsured rate in Mississippi was 29.4%.
In raw numbers, New York has the fewest uninsured drivers, at just over 22,000. California takes the lead by a large margin, with more than 4.5 million uninsured drivers on the road.
Uninsured Drivers in Ohio
Ohio doesn’t make the top 10 or the bottom 10 when it comes to uninsured drivers. The report referenced above ranks the state at # 21 for uninsured drivers, with 16.6% of motorists operating without insurance. That’s more than one million uninsured drivers sharing the road with you.
Nationwide, the rate of uninsured drivers has decreased over the past couple of decades, but the trend differs from state to state. Some have seen a decline in uninsured motorists from one year to the next and others a significant increase. Ohio’s rate remained relatively stable.
How Much Insurance is Required in Ohio?
Ohio law requires only liability insurance. That means that a driver is required to carry motor vehicle insurance that will compensate others if the driver causes or substantially contributes to an accident. But, Ohio drivers aren’t required to carry insurance to cover their own medical care, property damage, and other losses in a motor vehicle crash.
The mandatory coverage includes:
- At least $25,000 in coverage for bodily injury to or the death of one other person
- At least $50,000 in coverage for bodily injury to or the death of two or more persons
- At least $25,000 for damage to someone else’s property
You can probably see right away that these amounts aren’t likely to cover a serious car accident. Nearly a decade ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put the average cost of a hospital stay after a car accident at more than $56,000. In the 10 years since, the cost of hospital care has increased by more than 47%.
Of course, an Ohio driver has the option of buying more liability insurance. And, there are other types of insurance that can help the injured party even if the driver who caused the accident doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance. These include:
- Collision coverage pays for damages (up to your policy limits) for damage to your vehicle, regardless of who is responsible for the collision.
- Comprehensive coverage pays for damage to your vehicle that occurs in some way other than a motor vehicle accident, such as a tree branch falling on your car or vandalism.
- Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage helps to make up the difference if the person who is responsible for the collision doesn’t have insurance or has too little insurance to cover your damages.
Many people skip this type of coverage or keep limits low to save on automobile insurance premiums, but that can be short-sighted. If you’re hit by a driver who doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have adequate insurance or you are in an accident that is your fault, the costs can be overwhelming.
Costs of an Ohio Car Accident
Without insurance, an Ohio motor vehicle accident can be very expensive for both the responsible driver and the victim.
Costs to the Victim
If you’re involved in a collision with another vehicle and the driver isn’t insured, you can rely–at least in part–on whatever uninsured motorist coverage you’re carrying. But, what if you opted not to purchase that coverage?
Generally, you can expect to be responsible for the costs of:
- Repairing or replacing your vehicle: as of July of 2022, the average price of a new vehicle is more than $48,000
- Uninsured medical expenses: If you have medical insurance through your employer or bought your coverage through the Marketplace, out-of-pocket costs for covered in-network services are capped at $8,700/year. If you don’t have insurance, don’t have an ACA-compliant policy, or require out-of-network care, your costs may be much higher.
- Lost income: If you’re unable to work due to your injuries, you’ll typically be on your own to figure out how to replace that income. If you have short-term or long-term disability through your employer or a private policy, this may help to replace some of your income.
- Other costs associated with your injury: Not all injury-related expenses are medical. Some examples of other costs may include household assistance, transportation for your children if you’re unable to drive, and modifications to make your home or vehicle accessible.
You also generally won’t be able to recover for intangible harm such as pain and suffering.
Isn’t the Responsible Driver Still Liable?
It’s true that another driver whose negligence caused your injuries is legally responsible, with or without insurance. But, most uninsured motorists don’t have sufficient assets to compensate you directly.
Costs to the Responsible Driver
As daunting as the victim’s situation is, the responsible driver may be even worse off. First, the driver who caused the collision will generally be legally responsible for all of the damages described above, and possibly others. Without insurance, the injured person will be looking directly to the responsible driver for compensation. The injured party can still file a personal injury claim against the driver. But, the insurance company won’t be there to pick up the tab. And, the insurance company won’t be there to provide an attorney. So, a driver who wants to fight a car accident claim against them will likely have to hire and pay an attorney to defend them.
If the driver is found liable, the injured person can ask the court to attach the responsible driver’s assets to pay the judgment, or request a wage garnishment. In a serious accident case, this usually won’t be enough to cover the injured person’s losses. So, the defendant may lose significant assets though the plaintiff still isn’t fully compensated.
Damages to the victim may be just the beginning. The uninsured driver responsible for the crash may also have been injured, sustained damage to their vehicle, and suffered other losses. That means the responsible driver may also have to repair or replace their own vehicle, pay medical expenses, and figure out how to replace lost income while facing liability to the injury victim.
Don’t Scrimp on Auto Insurance
It’s natural to want to cut costs, but a small amount of savings on automobile insurance can translate into big costs later. With more than one million uninsured drivers on the road, it’s better to protect yourself.
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