Ohio Car Accident Law
If you are involved in a car accident and wish to file a claim
in an Ohio court against the person you believe responsible for
the incident, you should familiarize yourself with the basic
laws the State of Ohio employs in determining liability and awarding
damages to plaintiffs.
Every individual operating a motor vehicle within Ohio has
a duty to exercise reasonable care in the operation of that motor
vehicle. The burden of reasonable care makes drivers accountable
for acts which they knew would likely result in injury to person
or property and for acts which they should have known would likely
result in injury to person or property. Ohio state law categorizes
a driver's failure to use reasonable care as negligence.
While many states consider violation of a motorist safety
statute when determining whether a driver acted negligently,
Ohio courts consider violation of the Ohio Motor Vehicle Act
negligence per se. This means that when a defendant driver
violates a provision of the Ohio Motor Vehicle Act an Ohio court
treats this as sufficient evidence to find that the defendant
driver acted without using reasonable care. The only time such
an imposition of negligence will not occur is when the defendant
driver shows that something over which he had no control or an
emergency not of his making made it impossible for him to comply
with the statute. In such a case, the court considers what a
reasonably prudent person would have done under the circumstances
A driver in Ohio has the right to assume that other drivers
will observe traffic laws and exercise ordinary care in the operation
of their automobiles. A driver may also assume that all drivers
on the road will proceed in a lawful manner and that, if it becomes
necessary to stop, they will stop in a lawful manner and park
in a manner the law prescribes. Conduct based on these assumptions,
absent any notice that other drivers are likely to ignore the
observance of ordinary care, does not constitute negligence.
While a driver has certain rights when operating a motor vehicle
under the Motor Vehicle Act, the driver has a duty to exercise
these rights in a reasonable and careful manner when he becomes
aware of a perilous situation. In addition, all drivers have
a duty to keep a lookout, not only to the front of vehicle, but
to the sides and rear as circumstances may warrant. Failure to
do so constitutes legal negligence. Negligence represents the
first requirement for a successful lawsuit.
Once you have established the negligence of a party, you must
show that their negligence caused the accident that resulted
in your injury. "Causation," in a legal sense, can
be a complex issue, but suffice it to say that if the negligence
of the party resulted in the injury to person or property for
which you have sued, causation exists. Thus, in a case where
a violation of the Ohio Motor Vehicle Act comprises the basis
for negligence, the violation must be the cause of the accident
which caused you injury in order for you to recover damages in
such a case.
Finally, in order to maintain a suit as the result of an automobile
accident, you must prove that you have suffered damages. Damages
include economic injury, such as lost income or wages, medical
and funeral expenses, lost support and services, and replacement
value or repair costs of personal property damaged in the accident.
In addition, damages may include non-economic injuries such pain,
suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience as a result of bodily
injury that result from the accident.
An Ohio court may reduce your damages, if the defendant can
establish that actions on your part contributed to the accident.
This principle, known as "comparative negligence,"
holds that a court can reduce your damage award by the percentage
for which a jury found you responsible for the accident. For
example, if you establish damages in the amount of $10,000, but
the jury finds that your negligence constituted twenty percent
of the reason the accident occurred, then the court would reduce
your damage award by twenty percent, to $8,000. In cases where
your negligence constitutes fifty percent or more of the reason
the accident occurred, however, Ohio bars your recovery from
the defendant completely.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
You should note that Ohio law requires a plaintiff to file
suit within a specified period of time, depending on the type
of claim the plaintiff makes. For claims concerning personal
injury, seeking compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering,
and lost wages, Ohio law specifies a two-year statute of limitation.
Regarding claims of property damage, such as damage to the plaintiff's
automobile, or other property, Ohio also specifies a two-year
statute of limitations. This means that for personal injury and
property damage claims, you may only file your suit within two
years from the date of the accident. Ohio law prohibits any suit
filed after the expiration of the statute of limitations. If
you think that you might have a claim against another party as
the result of a car accident, you should consult a qualified
attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your suit is filed
within the applicable statute of limitations.
PARTIES YOU CAN SUE
Ohio law allows you to sue not only the operator of the vehicle
but also the employer of the operator of the vehicle, if the
operator was acting in his capacity as an employee. In cases
where the owner of the vehicle was not the operator, you may
also be able to sue the owner in addition to suing the operator.
In order to sue the owner, however, you must establish that the
owner was a passenger at the time of the accident, or that the
operator acted as an agent of the owner during the time in which
the accident occurred. Ohio law also holds owners liable if the
plaintiff establishes that the owner knew or should have known
that the person the owner allowed to operate the vehicle was
a reckless, incompetent, or inexperienced driver.
Ohio law mandates a certain minimum automobile liability insurance
coverage for all automobiles registered in the state. Depending
on the terms of the individual policy, liability insurance typically
covers the cost of property damage, including the cost of repair
or replacement for any property damaged as the result of an accident.
Liability insurance also pays medical bills and lost wages as
a result of bodily injuries incurred in an accident.
Ohio law requires that each car driven in the state either
have a minimum of insurance coverage or that the owner establish
financial responsibility by taking out a bond. For those who
choose to purchase insurance, Ohio law requires that each car
registered in the state have a minimum of $12,500 in insurance
coverage for one person injured in an accident, and a minimum
of $25,000 for all persons injured in an accident. In addition,
Ohio requires a minimum $7,500 in coverage for property damage.
Unlike some other states, Ohio law does not mandates coverage
for when you are involved in an accident with an uninsured, underinsured,
or hit-and-run driver. Such coverage typically pays medical bills
and lost wages for you and your passengers, in a case where you
cannot collect these damages from the driver at fault for the
Beyond compulsory insurance, you may wish to purchase additional
insurance coverage. As the owner of an automobile, a court may
hold you personally liable for any damages in excess of your
insurance coverage for any accident your vehicle caused through
negligent operation. Purchasing additional coverage could protect
your personal assets in case of a suit.
Basic Reparations or Medical Payments Coverage, Collision
Coverage, and Comprehensive Coverage are three types of additional,
optional insurance coverage. Basic Reparations Coverage covers
bodily injury and medical expenses of an at-fault driver who
does not have medical insurance. Collision coverage pays for
damages incurred by the at-fault driver in accidents involving
collision. Finally, Comprehensive Coverage pays for damage to
a vehicle not caused by collision, including damages caused by
theft, vandalism, flood, fire, and explosion.
Under the Financial Responsibility Law, the owner of a car
can forego insurance coverage and instead opt to purchase a financial
responsibility (FR) bond that will cover damages resulting from
an accident. FR bonds are similar to automobile insurance. They
provide bodily injury and property damage liability coverage
like insurance does, but they cover only your liability for damages
and injuries you cause. They do not cover other people, including
those in your household, operating your vehicle. Financial responsibility
bonds also do not cover damages to your vehicle or injuries to
you or your passengers. They provide only restricted coverage
for bodily injury and property damage liability. The FR bond
is usually written for at least $32,500 and an authorized insurance
company must issue it. Your cost will depend on certain risk
factors such as your age and your driving record. An FR bond
does not provide coverage for any particular vehicle it
covers the person named in the bond and no one else