What to Do If You’re in a Car Accident Without Insurance but Not At Fault in Ohio

You can file a claim or lawsuit against the other driver, but you’ll still face penalties for driving without insurance in Ohio.
Written by Jessica Gibson
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
background
Driving without
car insurance
is never a good idea. You can face serious consequences, including having your license suspended. However, if you’re in an accident in
Ohio
and the other driver is at fault, you can file a claim with their insurance company or file a personal lawsuit if the other driver is also uninsured.

What to do if you’re in a car accident without insurance in Ohio and not at fault

It’s illegal to drive without insurance in Ohio. If you already know this and are tempted to drive off after the accident—aka hit skip—don’t do it! Leaving the scene of a crash regardless of who caused the accident can amount to criminal charges. You could receive: 
  • Up to 180 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine if the accident caused only vehicle or building damage
  • 6 to 12 months in jail and up to $2,500 in fines if someone is seriously injured
  • 6 to 18 months in jail and up to $5,000 in fines if you know you caused serious injuries
  • Up 8 years in jail and up to $15,000 in fines if the accident resulted in a death that you caused
If you’re in an accident without insurance, take a deep breath and try to stay calm. Remain at the scene, and check that you, any passengers, and the other driver aren’t injured. Call 911 if it’s medically necessary.
Then, exchange your contact and driver’s license information with the other driver. Get their insurance information if they’ve got coverage. Try to document the accident by asking witnesses for their contact info and taking pictures. This helps your claim later when you try to prove that you weren’t at fault.
If you weren’t the cause of the accident and the other driver has car insurance, you can file a claim with their insurance company, even if you don’t have car insurance yourself. The money can cover damage to your vehicle or your medical costs. 
Is the other driver uninsured, too? Ohio is an “at-fault” or “tort” state, so the person who is at fault for the accident is responsible for paying for the injuries and property damage. This means you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver. However, you’ll still face the consequences of driving uninsured.

Who decides fault in a car accident in Ohio?

Basically, the insurance company and courts decide who is at fault. If they show up at the scene, the police play a big role in helping the insurance company come to its decision. The police collect useful information in determining who is at fault, but the insurance company ultimately makes the decision.
After the accident, get evidence of the other driver’s fault if you’re claiming they caused the accident. Include evidence like photographs or witness statements in your claim with the insurance company. 

Do you need to report a car accident in Ohio? 

Only sometimes. If you were in a fender bender, you probably don’t need to report it to the police. Officially, you don’t have to report a car accident if the collision didn’t result in any injuries requiring medical attention or death and caused less than $1,000 of property damage. 
Report the car accident if someone was injured, died, or there’s at least $1,000 of property damage. Ohio doesn’t give a time limit on reporting, but you'll be charged with a misdemeanor if you fail to report an accident. 
If you’re in an accident with an uninsured driver, however, you’ve got six months from the date of the crash to report the accident to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
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What if you’re at fault?

It’s hard to sugar-coat—you’ll quickly face serious consequences if you’re at fault for an accident. Because Ohio is a modified
comparative negligence state
, you’ll be financially responsible for your portion of the other driver’s damages, like vehicle repairs and medical bills, if you are deemed more than 50% negligent for the accident. If you don’t have insurance, the other driver can file a lawsuit against you to demand the money.
Then, you’ll face all the penalties of driving without insurance, plus your license will be suspended for at least two years or indefinitely (until you’ve paid all the damages from the accident).

What if you’re hit by an uninsured driver in Ohio?

13% of Ohioans didn’t have car insurance in the most recent study by the Insurance Information Institute. Simply put, you have a little over a one in 10 chance of being in a car accident with an uninsured motorist. If you’re in an accident and they have no coverage, it’s up to you to pursue them for damages, which can be tough work!
Fortunately, the right coverage takes care of damage to your vehicle and protects you from costly medical bills. Turn to your policy and check that you’ve got
collision coverage
. This insurance repairs damage to your vehicle, even if the other driver is uninsured. 
While you’re at it, see if your policy includes
uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage
. These might be listed as UM/UIM, and they pay for a specific amount of medical expenses if you’re hit by a driver who isn’t insured or doesn’t have enough bodily injury liability to take care of your medical bills.
Get
medical payments (MedPay) coverage
if you want extra peace of mind with medical coverage. You can use MedPay to pay deductibles, get X-rays, pay for rehabilitation, and more. MedPay is kind of like car insurance, but you pay a separate small premium every month. If you can’t afford car insurance, at least look into affordable MedPay options. 
MORE: Ohio reckless driving

Penalties for driving without insurance in Ohio

If you’re willing to risk the consequences of driving without insurance, think again. Ohio imposes harsh penalties if you’re caught
driving without insurance
. According to Ohio’s Vehicle Code 4501:1-2, you’ll immediately lose your license and have to pay a $100 license reinstatement fee.
The penalties don’t stop there. You’ll also be required to get
high-risk insurance coverage
and file proof of that insurance with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) for three to five years. And these penalties are imposed with your first offense! Penalties get more serious if you’ve repeatedly been found driving without insurance.
If you’ve been caught without insurance before, they’ll suspend your license for one year (if it’s your second offense) or two years (for additional offenses). You’ll also pay more—$300 for a second offense or $600 for the third or subsequent offenses.
All these penalties assume you weren’t involved in an accident. Unfortunately, if you’re uninsured after a collision, you’ll get all the previous penalties, plus you might have:
  • A security suspension for two years or more
  • A judgment suspension indefinitely (until all damages are satisfied)
  • Fines and penalties from a court of law
Since you can’t buy insurance after an accident to get retroactive coverage, the only way to protect yourself is to carry at least the minimum required insurance. It’s cheaper to carry the minimum coverage than to face the financial penalties of getting caught without it!
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Minimum required car insurance in Ohio

By now, you probably realize how important it is to have car insurance, but how much coverage does Ohio require?
Ohio’s state law
requires all drivers to have liability insurance that covers at least:
While these amounts might seem like a lot of coverage, they won’t go far in a big accident. The majority of experts recommend getting $100,000 of bodily injury liability per person, $300,000 of bodily injury liability per accident, and $100,000 of property damage liability. 
You might wonder if you need collision or comprehensive coverage. The answer is yes—if you want coverage that protects your car. It’s a myth that only newer cars need more extensive coverage. Even if you’re in an accident in an older vehicle, comprehensive coverage will take care of repairs like a tree branch falling through the windshield.

Driving without insurance can increase premiums

You might think you’re saving money by not paying for car insurance, but if you get caught driving without insurance, you’ll get slapped with a higher premium when you do eventually sign up. 
In Ohio, insurers typically charge uninsured drivers 9% more than people who already have coverage. This is why it’s a good idea to at least have liability insurance. 
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