Ohio mandates that all drivers be financially responsible for potential damages in an auto accident with minimum required liability coverage. Anyone caught driving without proof of this coverage will face legal consequences, and can be held responsible for injuries or property damage as the result of an accident. In addition to the legal minimum, drivers in Ohio may select optional coverage for further protection.
Required Insurance Coverage
Most Ohio drivers fulfill the financial responsibility requirement through the purchase of an auto insurance policy that complies with the required minimums. Drivers may also opt to place $30,000 in a surety or government bond.
An auto insurance policy meets the minimum requirements with the following coverage:
- Bodily Injury Liability – The policy must provide at least $25,000 per person in bodily injury coverage, and $50,000 total per incident for more than one person injured to cover medical and related costs in the event of injury or death.
- Property Damage Liability – The law mandates $25,000 in liability coverage for damage done to another vehicle or any property belonging to another person as the result of an at-fault accident.
Any driver choosing to meet the financial responsibility through a $30,000 bond must obtain a certificate as proof. Self-insurance is permitted for anyone who owns a fleet of more than 25 vehicles.
Optional Insurance Coverage
Drivers in Ohio can choose to increase their coverage and add additional options to their policy in order to better protect themselves from the financial repercussions of an auto accident. Raising liability limits is the first option most drivers choose, to provide more coverage for liability in an at-fault accident, the cost of which can quickly exceed the legally required amount.
In addition, drivers may add any of the following:
- Collision Coverage – Damage to your own vehicle in an accident will not be covered under liability if you are found at fault in the accident. Collision coverage will pay to repair or replace your vehicle.
- Comprehensive Coverage – Damage to a vehicle that is caused by an event other than an accident is covered under comprehensive. This will cover you for such events as theft, vandalism, fire, and weather-related damage, as well as paying for glass repairs.
- Uninsured/Underinsurance Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM) – In the event that you are struck by another driver who does not carry insurance or whose insurance is not adequate to pay for your damage, UM/UIM will kick in to pay for bodily injury and property damage.
- Towing and Labor – This coverage provides roadside assistance to pay for towing costs and any other labor needed in a roadside breakdown or other problem with your vehicle.
- Additional Coverage – Ohio insurance companies offer a variety of other optional coverage that drivers can choose from. This may include rental reimbursement, gap coverage, and more.
Proof of Insurance Laws and Penalties
Ohio uses a random selection process to request proof of insurance from drivers. A request received in the mail requires drivers to submit evidence of financial responsibility within 21 days or face penalties.
Ohio drivers must also provide proof of insurance to law enforcement officials when requested to do so, and the scene of an accident with more than $400 in damage or any injuries. Drivers registering a vehicle must sign a statement of financial responsibility and present proof upon request.
The legal penalties for failure to carry the legal minimum can include:
- Suspension of the driver’s license for up to two years
- Reinstatement fees of $150 for the first offense, up to $650 for subsequent offenses
- Suspension of the car’s registration and plates
- Requirement to file an SR-22 (proof of insurance) with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles
Drivers caught on the road while suspended for a violation of the financial responsibility laws will have the vehicle immobilized for 30-60 days and the plates confiscated. For further violations, penalties can include forfeiting of the vehicle and up to a 5-year suspension of vehicle registration.
Comparative Negligence and Fault
Ohio has a comparative negligence law in place that affects when a driver can expect to recover damages based on their level of fault in an accident. Insurance companies determine fault in percentages based on the facts of the accident.
A driver who is more than 50% at fault in an accident may not recover any damages from the other driver. This means that even if the other driver is found to share some of the fault, if that fault is less than 50% and yours is more, the other driver can seek to recover damages but you cannot.
Ohio law allows drivers to challenge an insurance company’s fault determination in court.
Buying Car Insurance in Ohio
Ohio drivers pay the second lowest auto insurance rates in the country, according to a 2015 Insure.com study. The study found that the annual average rate in the state was $843 for that year. The study suggests that Ohio’s regulation of insurance rates plays a part in keeping these rates low.
Ohio also has more insurance companies selling auto insurance than most states, which means there is more competition for each driver’s business.
Insurance companies in Ohio are permitted to use a variety of factors to determine rates, and it is legal in Ohio for credit history to be obtained by an insurance company and used in the rating process. This must be done in compliance with state law.
The Ohio Department of Insurance provides assistance for drivers shopping for auto insurance in the form of helpful advice, rate sample information, and records of complaints against insurance companies.
High-Risk Drivers and Insurance
Among the rating factors insurance companies use to determine rates is driving history. This factor is the most important in determining when a driver may be classified as high-risk. Drivers with multiple risk factors may find that auto insurance in the open market is either very expensive or in some cases impossible to obtain.
The Ohio Automobile Insurance Plan provides high-risk drivers who have been turned down for insurance with a last resort option for meeting the financial responsibility laws. Drivers who meet the basic eligibility requirements can apply to this assigned-risk plan and be placed with an insurance company. Rates are still likely to be very high for these plans.
Teen Drivers in Ohio
In Ohio, teen drivers progress through a graduated licensing system that allows them to learn driving skills safely over time. The three stages of the graduated system allow more responsibility while placing restrictions on new drivers during the process.
Temporary Instruction Permit
The first stage of the licensing process is to obtain a temporary permit that allows the teen to learn how to drive under supervision. Teens between 15 and a half years old and 16 years old are eligible to obtain this permit after taking a written test and obtaining parent or guardian signatures. With this permit, teen drivers must comply with rules and restrictions:
- Under 16 years old, permit holders may drive only with a licensed parent, guardian or driving instructor
- Over 16 years old, permit holders may drive with a fully licensed driver of at least 21 years old
- Drivers with a permit may not drive between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. unless a parent or guardian is in the passenger seat
- Drivers with a permit may not use a wireless device while driving
- Enroll in and complete 24 hours of classroom instruction and 8 hours of in-car instruction with a licensed instructor
- Complete 50 hours of driving practice time with at least 10 of those hours at night, and have an affidavit signed to prove this has been completed
Probationary Driver License
After 6 months with a permit, and having met the driver education and practice time requirements, a teen driver over 16 can take the road test to obtain a probationary license. With this license, a teen can drive unsupervised with the following restrictions:
- There can be no more than one passenger in the vehicle who is not a family member
- Driving is not permitted between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., unless a parent or guardian is in the passenger seat for drivers under 17
- For drivers over 17, driving is prohibited between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. unless a parent or guardian is in the passenger seat
- Probationary drivers under 18 may not use a wireless device while driving
At the age of 18, the teen driver will graduate to a full license. At this point all of the restrictions are lifted.
Teen drivers in Ohio are subject to financial responsibility laws when they receive their probationary license. Parents or guardians usually choose to add the teen driver to their insurance policy at this time in order to comply with this law. While teen drivers can obtain their own insurance policy when licensed, it is often financially beneficial to keep them on the parent or guardian policy while living at home or away at school, as teen drivers will encounter high insurance rates due to inexperience.
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