The laws governing automobile insurance vary from state to state. Because of this variation, drivers might not know who is responsible for paying for damage caused in a car accident. There are “no fault” states and “liability” states. Ohio, for example, is a “liability state.” This means that a driver who is injured in a car accident in Ohio can file a claim for compensation from the insurer of the driver or drivers who are responsible or at fault for the accident. This is the opposite of a “no fault” state like Michigan or Pennsylvania. In a “no fault” state, everyone involved in the accident files a claim with his or her own insurer to recover compensation for any damage caused, regardless of who caused the accident.
When a driver in a “liability state” is injured in an accident caused by another driver, the insured driver can file a claim with the at-fault or negligent driver’s insurance company in order to recover compensation. Similarly, any passenger who was injured in that driver’s vehicle can file a claim against the negligent driver’s insurance company for their injuries and damages. If a dispute arises as to who was at fault, a trial is sometimes necessary to decide this issue before any insurance payments are made.
- Liability Insurance
Liability insurance is insurance you purchase which covers you for personal injury and property damage claims when an accident is your fault.
Ohio law requires that all drivers have insurance that can pay for injuries and damages arising from accidents for which they are responsible. Ohio law requires that the minimum amount of insurance coverage for personal injuries that drivers must carry is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. In other words, all drivers must carry at least $25,000 of coverage to pay the claim of any single injured person and carry at least $50,000 of coverage in the event that more than one person is injured in the same accident. In addition, Ohio drivers are required to have at least $25,000 of insurance coverage to pay for damage to other vehicles or other property losses.
Liability insurance is important not only because it provides compensation to someone you might injure, but also because it protects you from having to use your own assets to pay for losses that are your fault. However, this protection only extends up to the amount of your liability insurance coverage. For example, if you have $25,000 of liability insurance coverage but your negligence causes $35,000 worth of losses to another person, you are still liable for the extra $10,000 in losses. For this reason, the Ohio Department of Insurance recommends using the value of your assets to help you determine how much liability insurance you should carry. Without adequate liability insurance coverage, you risk losing your assets to cover those losses that exceed your liability insurance limits.
- Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Insurance
In addition to insurance you are required to have when you are at fault for an accident, there is also an insurance coverage that can protect you when you are injured by the negligence of another driver. Although it is illegal to drive in Ohio without liability insurance, many drivers still don’t purchase it. This is why having uninsured motorist coverage is important. If you are struck by a negligent driver who does not have liability insurance, you can still receive compensation if your own insurance policy contains uninsured motorist coverage. And in some circumstances, uninsured motorist coverage will also allow you to recover compensation if you are the victim of a hit and run driver.
In addition to being hit by a driver who has no insurance or is a hit and run driver, there is also a substantial risk of being hit by a driver who does not have enough insurance coverage to pay for your injuries and losses. Underinsured motorist coverage provides compensation when your injuries and losses exceed the limit of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. For example, if you are carrying underinsured motorist coverage in the amount of $100,000 and you are injured by the negligence of a driver with $25,000 of liability coverage, your insurance policy will provide you with $75,000 of additional coverage on top of the $25,000 available from the at-fault driver’s liability policy.
Drivers can purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage but, under Ohio law, insurance companies are no longer required to offer such coverage in a typical insurance policy. The Ohio Revised Code states that “any policy of insurance . . . may, but is not required to, include uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage, or both.” While not required, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage can be extremely important. The Insurance Research Council (IRC) estimated that in 2012 between 12% and 15% of drivers in Ohio were uninsured. This means that up to 1.2 million drivers in Ohio did not have any insurance. In addition, the IRC estimated that the average cost of a bodily injury claim from a car accident was $14,653. In accidents involving injuries such as bone fractures, traumatic brain injuries and even chronic soft tissue sprains, the economic and noneconomic losses may far exceed the negligent driver’s insurance limits. Likewise, when accidents involve numerous passengers or multiple vehicles, the injury claims are likely to be more than the insurance coverage of a driver who has the state minimum limits. Therefore, even though Ohio drivers are not required to have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, going without this coverage may leave you with little or no protection if you are injured by another driver’s negligence.
- What Other Types of Policies Can Help Pay Auto Accident Bills?
Your existing health insurance policy may help cover your medical expenses for an accident just as it would for any other illness. This coverage is not part of your auto insurance policy. However, your health insurance policy may require that your health insurer be reimbursed in the event you receive compensation from an auto insurance policy.
Even when you have health insurance, there may be significant out-of-pocket expenses in the form of co-pays or deductibles that you are responsible for. This is where another type of insurance coverage can be extremely helpful. Medical Payments or MedPay coverage pays your medical expenses up to a certain limit when you are involved in an auto accident without regard to who is at fault. MedPay is part of an auto insurance policy and is beneficial because of its speed. Recovering a settlement from another driver’s insurance company after an accident can be a slow process. Your unpaid medical bills, however, may need immediate attention. Even if you have medical insurance, the co-pay for treatment you receive after a car crash can be a burden. You may be left in a financially difficult situation while paying your medical insurance co-pays and during the period your settlement is pending from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. This is where MedPay coverage can help. MedPay coverage pays your healthcare bills quickly before your case against the other driver is resolved. Depending on the terms of the auto policy, you may be required to reimburse your insurance company using the proceeds from your settlement or recovery from the other driver, but, in the meantime, you are not left wondering if you have enough money to pay your co-pay before your case against the other driver is settled.
- Tips for Protecting Yourself Before You Have an Auto Accident.
- Make sure you have liability insurance. Ohio law requires it.
- Make an inventory of your assets to help you determine how much liability coverage you need to purchase.
- Discuss with your insurance agent the available limits for uninsured, underinsured and MedPay coverages.
These coverages can mean the difference between fair compensation for your injuries and no compensation at all.
This website provides public information about personal injury law and other related information. None of the information on this site is intended to be formal legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed based on the content of this website. Please contact our law firm to inquire about your individual case.