Insurance Protection In Ohio Auto Accident Cases

by Dean Pavick on January 14, 2014

I am amazed at how often clients and defendants carry very low and limited coverages under their automobile liability insurance policies. Part of the problem has been the absurdly low statutory policy limits established by the Ohio legislature over 30 years ago. The bodily injury liability minimum policy limits, up until 12-22-13, were $12,500 per person and $25,000 per accident. The property damage liability minimum policy limits is only $7,500(12.5/25/7.5). This was probably adequate coverage back in the days when the average price of a new car was $7,200. Ohio currently has the 49th lowest minimum coverages in the U.S. By contrast, Wisconsin has mandatory minimum coverages of 50/100/55 and even a conservative state like Texas has 30/60/25 minimum coverages. The Ohio legislature finally passed HB 278 which raises the minimum coverage for bodily injuries to $25,000 per person  and $50,000 per accident. The propery damage minimum will be raised to $ 25,000. However, these new minimum coverages apply to auto insurance policies issued after 12-22-13. The new minimum coverages, while increased, are still too low considering that healthcare expenditures were 10 times greater in 2010 than in 1980.

The Insurance Information Institute recommends policy limit coverages of at least $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident and $100,000 property damage liability coverage(100/300/100).It may cost a little more money in insurance premiums, but the trade-off in protecting you and your family involved in an automobile accident is well worth it. Ohio has the 13th lowest auto insurance premiums in the country. Deductibles can be raised to lower premiums. Each insurance company also has a number of discount programs which can lower premium payments.

Since 2001, Ohio no longer requires mandatory coverage for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage(UM/UIM). Every owner of a motor vehicle should carry UM/UIM coverage under his/her auto policy with at least identical policy limits as the liability coverage(ie.100/300).The owner should look at the declaration sheet of the policy to verify the types of coverages and the policy limits for each coverage.

Here are some examples of why good auto insurance coverage is important.

  1. Example #1: A drunk ,unemployed driver with no significant assets runs a red light and broadsides your car causing serious injuries to you, your spouse and your child.The drunk driver has a 12.5/25 policy(state minimum). You also have a state minimum policy.The total monetary recovery for you, your spouse and your child is limited to  $12,500 per person with either you or one of your family members being forced to accept less than $12,500 as the total recovery for all three family members is limited to a total of $25,000. As your own policy limits are identical to the defendant’s limits, you and your family recover nothing under your own policy. This covers everyone’s past,present and future damages including medical expenses,wage loss,pain and suffering,loss of pleasurable activities of life etc.The recovery would be clearly inadequate,leading to substantial financial hardships.
  2. Example#2: Same set of facts except you have a 25/50 policy limit. If you have uninsured motorist coverage but no underinsured motorist coverage(UIM), your insurance recovery is limited to the defendant’s policy limits of 12.5/25.If you have UIM coverage of 25/50, the policy limits recovery from the defendant’s automobile insurance company is offset against the recovery against your own insurance company.Therefore, the maximum total recovery is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.However,since there were three seriously injured people in your car, someone is going to end up with less than $25,000 total recovery since the maximum total recovery for all three family members is $50,000–again an inadequate monetary recovery for damages.If you and your family have no health insurance coverage, the total recovery may not even pay the medical and hospital bills let alone for pain and suffering, lost wages etc.If you do have health insurance coverage which pays the medical bills, that health insurance company will have a right to be reimbursed out of the monetary recovery(subrogation). Either way, it is a lose-lose situation for you, your spouse and your child.

Insurance companies and governmental agencies have cautioned for years to “drive defensively”.However, it is just as important to act defensively in the amount of insurance coverage carried on your motor vehicle to fully protect you and your passengers.The same is true if you own a home and other assets which could be placed at risk if you cause serious injuries and damages to others on the highway.In other words, “cover your assets”!

 

 

 

 

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