Ohio is the 24th most car-dependent state in the country after Vermont and Georgia, according to an analysis from the US Insurance Agents. 91% of Ohio workers use cars to commute to their jobs, highlighting the vehicle’s importance in the economy.
The critical role of cars for Ohioans is not without drawbacks, however. Data from the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) shows over 265,432 crash incidents recorded in 2022, with around 0.44% or 1,180 of these crashes being fatal. Drivers tend to collide with other vehicles, properties, or pedestrians by failing to yield (14.1%), speeding (11.3%), running a red light or a stop sign (5%), or distracted driving (3.9%). Cuyahoga County—where Cleveland is located—ranks first in vehicular crashes and represents over 1/10th of all incidents in Ohio, followed by the counties of Hamilton and Franklin.
For Ohioans seeking to press legal action against liable parties in a car accident, it can be beneficial to understand car-related laws in the Buckeye State. This guide provides helpful information about traffic violations, insurance requirements, and lawsuit filing deadlines, as well as legal aid resources. By educating themselves on these matters, Ohioans are better equipped to pursue their claims successfully.
Ohio Failure to Yield Laws
Drivers must yield the right of way to other vehicles or trackless trolleys before entering an intersection or a roadway, according to Section 4511.43 of the Ohio Revised Code. Vehicle operators should be aware that if they pass a yield sign without stopping and collide with another vehicle at a junction or intersection, the resulting accident is considered evidence that they did not provide the right-of-way.
State law also requires motorists to make way for public safety vehicles responding to an emergency; a person impeding such a response could be reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency by emergency personnel, as stated in section 4511.454.
Crashes that involve a driver failing to give way remain the top cause of car accidents in the state, although the OSHP recorded a slight 0.49% decrease in such incidents from 2021 to 2022. To reduce failure-to-yield accidents—especially among teen drivers—OSHP and the Ohio Traffic Safety Office began DRIVE to Live. This program educates young drivers at schools about the importance of safe driving. In Ashtabula County, it is also ordered as a one-time court-mandated program for juvenile traffic offenders, on top of fines.
Sanctions for Erring Drivers
Besides an educational program, drivers charged with violating failure-to-yield laws can face penalties. These sanctions depend on the individual’s misdemeanor charge. For example, a motorist convicted for the first time might only face a minor misdemeanor charge, which carries a fine of up to $150. Offenders convicted of a previous traffic offense are charged with a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. Their penalties include a maximum of 30 days in jail and as much as $250 in fines. If a person violates the state’s failure-to-yield laws for the third time, they could be indicted for a third-degree misdemeanor offense. They will have to deal with up to two months of prison time and a maximum fine of $500.
Drivers in Ohio caught failing to yield and driving while distracted by law enforcement are subject to an additional $100 fine. They can decide to attend a course about distracted driving if they do not want to pay the fine.
Ohio Speeding Laws
Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.21 states that drivers of streetcars, motor vehicles, or trackless trolleys cannot travel at a speed considered improper or unreasonable, given the roadway’s conditions. The law also expresses that motorists must not drive faster than they can safely stop their vehicle. More than 30,000 speed-related accidents occurred in 2022, according to data from the OSHP.
Motorists should know that except where noted, the absolute speed limits in the state are:
75 miles per hour
65 miles per hour
Urban freeways and rural expressways
55 miles per hour
The state also has prima facie speed limits. A driver who violates such limits does not automatically have to deal with the relevant penalties because they still have the opportunity to challenge and overturn a speeding conviction. Unless otherwise posted, these limits are:
15 miles per hour
All alleys inside a municipal corporation
20 miles per hour
School zones when children enter or leave school; the rule also applies during recess.
25 miles per hour
Other areas within a municipal corporation
35 miles per hour
Highways outside business districts
55 miles per hour
Highways outside municipal corporations
65 miles per hour
Rural expressways that contain traffic control signals
Punishments for Speeding Law Violators
Speed-related crashes decreased by 4.3% in Ohio from 2021 to 2022, according to the OSHP. In an attempt to reduce such incidents further, state authorities have joined traffic officers from Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin on Speed Awareness Day, a campaign that blends communication with drivers and zero-tolerance enforcement. The campaign seeks to reinforce the importance of complying with speeding laws and highlight how a car traveling at higher speeds will need more distance to stop completely.
Speeding laws punish first and second-time offenders with up to $150 in fines. Third-time violators and drivers who travel more than 35 miles per hour in school zones or business districts might deal with as much as $250 in fines and/or a maximum of a month in jail. For motorists convicted of speeding for the fourth time, a penalty of up to $500 in fines and 60 days in prison could be imposed. Fines are typically doubled for violations that happen within a construction zone. Drivers should also know that these incidents might increase their chances of license suspension.
Ohio Red Light and Stop Sign Laws
Ohio drivers should come to a complete stop before entering an intersection or crosswalk when moving towards a red light or a stop sign, as seen in the Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.13. The law also states that turning left on red is allowed from one-way to one-way streets. In contrast, turning right on red is permitted if the driver follows right-of-way regulations and there are no signs prohibiting it.
Ohioans should additionally be aware of Section 4511.132, which promulgates that in cases where a red light is malfunctioning, a motorist can pass through the intersection while following right-of-way rules. They could still be cited by law enforcement personnel if a crash occurs and it turns out the traffic light is not broken.
Over 5% of vehicular crashes in the state involve a driver running a red light or a stop sign. First-time violators could face a maximum of $150 in fines, while second-time offenders might have to deal with as much as $250 in fines and/or a maximum of a month in prison. Up to $500 in fines and/or as much as 60 days of jail time may be imposed for individuals that violated the law for the third or succeeding times. Convictions also add two demerit points to a driver’s record; 12 points in a two-year period equals a license suspension. Motorists can eliminate two demerit points from their record by attending a remedial driving program.
Ohio Operating a Vehicle under the Influence Laws
In Ohio, drunk driving is referred to as “operating a vehicle under the influence,” or OVI. It is the only state in the United States that uses the term. Neighboring states like Indiana and Michigan employ OWI, while Kentucky and West Virginia utilize DUI. Even though the terminology differs, the defining factor for conviction — a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher — remains the same. Another thing that individuals should know about the Buckeye State’s drunk driving laws is the different BAC limits for under-21 drivers. Motorists below the state’s drinking age are subject to a 0.02% BAC ceiling.
Ohio recorded over 10,000 crashes involving alcohol in 2022. These incidents represent 3.8% of all crashes documented during that period. Awareness campaigns like “Driver Sober or Get Pulled Over” and the state’s strict laws seem to affect the number of alcohol-related crashes, as there was a marked 26.7% decrease in such incidents from 2021 to 2022.
Penalties for OVI
Convicted drivers could face three penalties – 180 days in jail, between $375 and $1,075 in fines, and a license suspension period from one to three years for a first offense. Penalties increase to 10-180 days of prison time, $525-$1,625 in fines, and a revoked driver’s license that might last seven years for second-time violators. Those who committed OVI for the third time have to deal with a sentence that carries 2-12 years of license suspension, fines from $850 to $2,750, and 30-365 days in jail.
Offenders seeking to reduce their penalties can request community control sanctions, which include treatment programs and alcohol electronic monitoring devices. They could also decrease a 12-month license suspension by installing an ignition interlock device for six months under Annie’s Law.
An Ohio driver could still be charged with OVI even when they were not driving. Under Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.194, individuals who are in possession of the ignition key and are sitting in the driver’s seat are considered to be in physical control of their vehicle. If they were found to be exhibiting signs of intoxication, they might face an OVI charge.
There are exceptions to this, however. The state’s physical control laws do not apply to motorists who ingested, inhaled, or injected controlled substances in accordance with a prescription from a licensed healthcare professional.
Those who violated the state's physical control laws are charged with an offense of a misdemeanor of the first degree. They can face a range of penalties if found guilty. These include up to six months in jail and a maximum of $1,000 in fines. The courts can also impose a class seven suspension of the offender’s driver’s license, which lasts for a period not exceeding one year.
Ohio Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements
Ohio requires all drivers to obtain auto insurance as part of their proof of financial responsibility under Section 4509.101 of the Ohio Revised Code. Insurance policies purchased by an Ohio motorist must meet the minimum requirements set by the state, which are:
$25,000 for the death or injury of a person caused by the driver.
$50,000 for the death or injury of two or more people.
$25,000 for property damage.
It is worth noting that under state law, car owners are prohibited from lending their vehicles to drivers without valid insurance. Regardless of who is at fault, there are multiple penalties for driving without proof of financial responsibility. A first-time offender might face — among other sanctions — a license suspension that lasts a maximum of 90 days, the impoundment of their vehicle, and a $75 fee to get their driver’s license back. Penalties increase to a one-year license suspension and a $500 license reinstatement fee for repeat violators. Additionally, they will also be required to show proof that they are complying with the state’s insurance regulations.
The law also mentions that proof of insurance can be presented to law enforcement personnel through an electronic wireless communication device. Motorists need to ensure that the insurance document on their phone contains their name, the identity of their insurance company, the document’s effective date, and the vehicle covered by the policy.
Ohio drivers pay $118 monthly on average for auto insurance, as reported by the United Services Automobile Association. The final amount depends on the coverage policies purchased by the motorist. For example, individuals who added roadside assistance as part of their policy might have to pay higher premiums. Other factors that could drive a person’s premiums up include the presence of DUI citations and speeding tickets on their driving record.
Drivers that own more than 25 vehicles can obtain self-insurance from the state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles as an alternative to policies offered by third-party providers.
Ohio Is an At-Fault State for Insurance Claims
Ohio is an ‘at-fault’ or ‘tort’ state. Drivers responsible for a car accident are liable for the victim’s damages. Individuals adversely affected by vehicular collisions, therefore, may file lawsuits to obtain compensation for medical expenses or property damage costs from the at-fault party.
Ohio joins neighboring states Indiana and West Virginia, where motorists are not required to purchase personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. The closest coverage policy that Ohioans can obtain is MedPay, an optional add-on that helps injured drivers or passengers manage accident-related medical expenses. Motorists should be aware, however, that MedPay does not cover lost wages.
Ohio Is a Modified Comparative Fault State for Car Accident Lawsuits
Ohio has a 51% bar rule, which states that car accident victims at-fault for 51% or more of the crash cannot receive damages from liable parties. Nevertheless, if the victim is found to be 50% or less at fault for a vehicular accident, they can still recover damages. The amount of compensation, however, diminishes depending on their at-fault percentage.
For example, suppose a plaintiff is awarded $10,000 in damages but is found to be 30% at fault for the accident. In that case, the damages award will be reduced by 30% and the plaintiff will only receive $7,000.
Ohio Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents
Under Section 2305.10 of the Ohio Revised Code, an individual injured in a car accident has two years to press legal action against the liable party. The rule applies to claims filed by various affected parties, including drivers and passengers, as well as pedestrians, motorcyclists, and electric scooter riders. In cases where a family loses a loved one in a car crash, the state provides two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit, starting from the date of the victim’s demise. Individuals looking to obtain compensation for damages caused by the negligent actions of a city or state employee also have two years to take legal action.
Other factors might affect the period allowed to press claims. For example, minors have to wait before they turn 18 to file a car accident lawsuit.
Average Settlement for Ohio Car Accident Lawsuits
According to the latest information from Jury Verdict Research, Ohioans received, on average, $303,955 in personal injury lawsuits. However, the median figure is only $13,000 — this is lower than the national median of $16,000 in auto accident cases, as the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported.
The amount that a car crash victim can receive from at-fault parties depends on the circumstances of their accident. For example:
In a 2022 case, a woman slowing down because of traffic from a tree removal operation was rear-ended by a driver. She suffered injuries in her pelvis and back and filed claims against the driver and the tree removal company. She recovered $1.28 million in damages from a Cuyahoga County jury. Ohio law requires all drivers to carry $25,000 in insurance coverage, but in some cases, this might not be enough to manage medical expenses; a victim can, therefore, sue companies for negligence, as they tend to carry a general liability insurance policy worth at least $1 million.
In another case, a Medina County nurse sustained shoulder and neck injuries at a Brunswick crash. She obtained $90,000 from a jury verdict. Damage to a driver’s tendons and soft tissue could fetch below $10,000; an attorney should acquire evidence that the injury requires physical therapy to obtain a higher amount.
If the defendant demonstrated fraud or malice in a tort action, the plaintiff may obtain punitive damages, currently capped at $350,000, according to Section 2315.21 of the Ohio Revised Code.
Helpful Legal Resources for Ohio Car Accident Victims
Published by the state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), the manual guides new motorists on safe driving practices and laws regarding multiple matters, including railroad crossings, speed limits, and child passenger restraints. The document also guides Ohioans on the process of adding their next of kin on their licenses or putting the 'ARMED FORCES' designation on the back of their ID card.
An injured motorist uses this form to request the suspension of an uninsured driver's license if the property damage caused by the accident exceeds $400. The document requires the car accident victim to fill out information regarding the at-fault party's name, address, and phone number. It should be filed within six months of the crash date.
The organization states that its mission is to protect consumers through “education and fair but vigilant regulation,” especially in cases of insurance fraud involving car thefts or staged auto accidents. Its website contains a list of companies licensed to sell insurance across the state. Ohioans are advised to file a complaint here or call 800-686-1527 to report instances of fraudulent activity.
Ohioans can perform various tasks, like applying for self-insurance, requesting a driver’s license recertification, or obtaining special license plates, through multiple forms uploaded on the website. The organization also has a dedicated section on its website that guides new state residents through various procedures, including vehicle title transfers and registrations.
Launched in 2019, the nonprofit organization has been serving Ohioans in cases involving a wide range of matters, from issues involving driver’s licenses to housing foreclosure proceedings. Its advisory committee is composed of multiple organizations, including the state’s Supreme Court, the Ohio Library Council, the ACLU of Ohio, and the Ohio State Bar Association.
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Charles M. RittgersReviewer
Charles M. Rittgers is a trial lawyer with a record of success in personal injury, wrongful death, and criminal defense cases. Charlie is a certified member of the Multi Million Dollar Advocates Forum, one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. As a result of his experience, Charlie has appeared on national and local television shows and radio broadcasts.