Last updated on October 3rd, 2023
In 2022, motor vehicle fatalities increased dramatically in Ohio. The Buckeye state experienced 32,752 traffic crashes, resulting in 172 deaths.
While many car accident cases are settled out-of-court, some car crash cases may be taken to trial.
At Dyer, Garofalo, Mann, & Schultz, we believe that you should never agree to a settlement that is less than your case is worth. Below, we provide an overview of how fault is handled in Ohio, the insurance claims process, and what to expect if you file a car crash lawsuit.
After a car accident, your main priority should be taking care of yourself. Even if you suffered minor injuries, it is important that you seek medical treatment.
To make an insurance claim, you do not want to delay treatment. Any delay in treatment may be used by the insurance company as evidence against you.
If there is a gap between the accident and when you see a doctor, the insurance company may claim that your injuries were less severe than you claimed or that your injuries were caused by another event unrelated to the car crash.
In some states, you will make a claim with your own auto insurer, in what is referred to as a first-party claim. In these “no-fault” states, it doesn’t matter which driver caused the accident.
Not in Ohio. In Ohio, you will file a claim with the liable party’s insurance company in what is referred to as a third-party claim. Ohio is among 38 states that are known as “tort states.” In a tort state, the insurance company of the individual who is at fault for the accident will have to pay for your damages.
In many accidents, more than one party contributes to a crash. Each state differs on laws regarding degree of fault, with some states prohibiting a claimant from recovering if he or she contributed to the accident whatsoever.
Ohio is among the majority of states that practice comparative negligence. Comparative negligence allows a claimant to recover damages based on the individual’s degree of fault.
According to Ohio Revised Code § 2315.33, as long as the plaintiff’s proportion of fault is not greater than the other defendant or defendants’ fault(s) combined. In an Ohio car accident claim, you will be able to receive compensation from insurance as long as your proportion of fault is less than 50%.
For example, if you made a bodily injury claim for $20,000, but an insurance investigation determines you are 25% at fault for the accident, you will only be eligible to receive 75% of your claim. Insurance will send you a check for $15,000.
Before a case is taken to trial, both attorneys will try to settle the case through insurance.
Below, we summarize the insurance claims process:
A car accident lawyer will have experience in collecting needed information to help support your claim, helping you collect video surveillance, photographs, and witness testimony.
Evidence is the cornerstone in supporting your claim. If there is too little evidence in your favor, an insurance company is likely to never offer you a fair settlement.
Besides evidence that illustrates how the accident unfolded, your attorney will also need receipts of your medical bills and pay stubs reflecting lost wages.
A car accident lawyer will organize this documentation to submit to the insurance company in a demand package. A demand package marks the beginning of insurance negotiations.
The expenses that are relevant to your claim are known as compensatory damages. Compensatory damages come in two forms: economic or noneconomic.
Economic damages are easily calculable and reflect any expenses that took money away from you and will include medical expenses, lost income, and even the cost of vehicle repairs or replacement.
Conversely, known as noneconomic damages, may not have a financial component but affect your quality of life. In a car accident claim, this may include pain and suffering, loss of companionship and society, and disfigurement.
The first offer made by an insurance adjuster does not take into account your future medical needs or diminished work capacity.
We rarely accept the insurance company’s first offer but will generally respond with a counteroffer. This counteroffer reflects the compensation we feel you should receive for your troubles.
At Dyer, Garofalo, Mann, & Schultz, we handle the insurance negotiations on your behalf. Once you accept an insurance company’s offer, you will be unable to receive any further restitution for your claim.
You will only have two years to make a personal injury claim regarding your car accident. However, if your case is taken to court, it could take several years to litigate.
There are a few situations in which you may want to consider filing a lawsuit:
If you do decide to proceed to court, be prepared for a lengthy process. The first stage of a lawsuit involves both parties filing pleadings (forms) with the court. Your car accident lawyer will serve the defendant (the at-fault party) with a complaint and summons.
To begin a suit, the defendant must be served with a complaint by the plaintiff and a summons from the court. The complaint will list the pertinent facts in your case, your claims against the defendant, and what damages you are requesting the defendant pay you.
The summons is a court form that officially notifies the defendant of being sued. It also will require the defendant to appear in court on a certain date and time.
The defendant will have to respond to your complaint by filing an answer. In Ohio, the defendant has 28 days to file an answer.
In an answer, the defendant will issue a written statement denying your allegations. This gives the defendant a chance to provide his or her side of the story.
It is important you have legal counsel. If the defendant has hired counsel and finds that you missed something or made a procedural error, then your case may be dismissed by a judge.
Before a case moves to trial, the opposing parties will share information in what is known as discovery.
As of July 1, 2020, each side is required to make mandatory initial disclosures before the pre-trial conference, which will require the following information to be disclosed to the opposing party:
Privileged information will be off-limits. In a lawsuit, attorney-client communications are protected, as well as any conversation or correspondence between an individual and a member of a religious order or society and any communications between an individual and a medical professional.
The discovery process may involve any of the following:
After discovery has been completed, the judge will schedule a final pre-trial conference. Both parties and their respective attorneys must be available during the scheduled conference time.
This is an opportunity for the judge to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s arguments. This conference will help the attorneys to prepare for trial.
The attorneys will have the chance to discuss logistics at trial, witnesses who are expected to testify, and the amount of time needed for trial.
The pre-trial conference also gives both sides the opportunity to settle the case. The judge will attempt to resolve the dispute by facilitating a voluntary agreement. If a settlement agreement cannot be reached, a trial date will be scheduled.
Many car accident lawsuits are tried in front of a jury. The typical structure of a trial is usually:
The judge will give the jury instructions so that jurors are informed on current state law. The jury will go into a private room and deliberate until they have reached a verdict. The verdict must be based on the application of the law related to the presented evidence.
Sometimes, taking your case to court may be the only way to receive just compensation. Be prepared for a time-consuming process, with many trials lasting several weeks.
You may not understand your legal options following a car crash. Don’t keep guessing for another moment. Let us review your case. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.
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