Ohio has passed a new law that will raise - for the first time in more than 40 years - the financial responsibility requirements of those driving on the state's roads. Minimum liability coverage levels have remained relatively low in Ohio as compared with some other states. The new, higher levels will help protect financially both liable drivers and those injured or sustaining property damage in motor vehicle accidents because of other drivers' actions.
Obviously, the pricing increases in medical care, motor vehicles and automotive repairs have skyrocketed since 1969, so the corresponding increases in coverage requirements make sense.
Governor John Kasich signed the bill on December 20, 2012. Its higher auto insurance coverage requirements become effective on December 22, 2013, for new and renewing policies.
Minimum auto insurance liability requirements
Each state sets by law minimum financial responsibility levels car owners and drivers must be able to meet in case of accidents in which they are found liable for the harm incurred by others. The financial responsibility is usually met by purchasing automobile insurance with at least the minimum amounts of required liability coverage. (Other options in Ohio include bonds or certifications that the owner or driver has the means to pay for such damages.)
Liability insurance coverage is triggered when a driver is determined to be at fault and legally responsible for other people's bodily harm and property damage from an accident. It is not meant to cover the driver's own related damage and injury.
The coverage categories that have minimum coverage requirements are:
- Bodily injury or BI per person per accident
- BI all people per accident
- Property damage or PD per accident
Commonly, liability coverage is referred to like this: BI per person / BI everyone / PD. For example, Ohio's current minimal requirements are $12,500/25,000/7,500. These amounts represent the amount of coverage in each category up to which the insurance company will pay per accident.
Ohio's new requirements
The new Ohio legislation will increase the required minimum auto liability coverage amounts to $25,000/50,000/25,000, from the present $12,500/25,000/7,500. By comparison, DMV.ORG reports that in neighboring Kentucky the requirements are already $25,000/50,000/10,000.
The jury is still out on how much premiums might go up on average to purchase the additional coverage, but Ohio law does not allow excessive rates and are reviewed for approval by the Ohio Department of Insurance. Bill sponsor Rep. Mark Okey, D-Carrollton, told 10tv.com that he thought it would only cost Ohioans a couple of dollars more monthly.
State officials are recommending that consumers shop around for the best pricing when the new requirements kick in.
Is minimal coverage enough?
Most people purchase more than the minimum liability coverage required under state law since injury and property damage claims can easily exceed those levels in a serious accident. Adequate coverage can help protect a driver's personal assets like money and property from being vulnerable to satisfying an expensive claim or judgment from an accident.
In fact, the Insurance Information Institute cites industry recommendations of $100,000 BI per person and $300,000 BI per accident.
If you are responsible for an accident, you could potentially be liable for medical costs incurred by your passengers, those in other vehicles, pedestrians or cyclists. Even for minor injuries, medical bills add up quickly and usually those involved will be checked out at emergency rooms, known to be expensive. Catastrophic injuries can require therapy and rehabilitation, and may even lead to long-term, institutional care.
Property damage includes damage to other vehicles and property inside them, as well as to stationary property like a fence, mailbox or building damaged in an accident.
Anyone in Ohio involved in a motor vehicle accident should seek the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney to help investigate the matter, negotiate with insurance companies, represent his or her interests, and pursue legal action if appropriate.