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Ohio Auto Insurance Requirements
by Doug Cohen

The State of Ohio cannot be more clear about where it stands regarding people taking financial responsibility when driving a car in Ohio.

Basically if you don't have it, you don't drive (in the State of Ohio).  Period.

Ohio has even taken it a step further.  If you let someone drive your car who doesn't have insurance, that's illegal too.  And you will pay for it.  (see Penalty below for more on that) Let's take a look at what the financial responsibility law in Ohio says.

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Section 4509.101 of the Ohio Revised Code prohibits an individual from operating a motor vehicle in Ohio without maintaining proof of FR (some type of Financial Responsibilitycontinuously throughout the registration period with respect to that vehicle, or, in the case of a driver who is not the owner, with respect to that driver's operation of that vehicle.  The law requires financial responsibility in the minimum amount of $12,500 for bodily injury to, or death of, one (1) individual in any one (1) accident, $25,000 for bodily injury to, or death of, two (2) or more individuals in any one (1) accident, and $7,500 for damage to the property of others in any one (1) accident.

Now, that ain't much!

If you look at accident stats and the average dollar amount sustained in a car crash, those amounts will likely be inadequate, but it is a start.  These are just the minimum limits required to register and operate a car in the State of Ohio.

Read more below for details, helpful tips, information, and definitions with more tips and advice on auto insurance in Ohio state.

How to Find the Best Auto Insurance Rates in Ohio

It is very important to comparison shop for the best coverage at the lowest rates. There are many on line resources that provide free quotes from licensed Ohio insurance companies with policies approved by the State of Ohio BMV. If you think you may be paying too much for auto insurance, residents of Ohio can save time and money by comparing car insurance quotes quickly and anonymously between top name Ohio auto insurance carriers simply by logging on to sites like InstantCarInsurance.com. The State of Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles requires minimum auto insurance coverage, or proof of financial responsibility (for bodily injury liability of $12,500 per person, $25,000 per crash, and $7,500 property damage liability, per crash) as long as you have a valid Ohio car registration.

Keep this in mind when shopping for basic coverage and evaluate it against car insurance quotes with higher coverage for a little more money. The cheapest car insurance is not always the best car insurance. Bear in mind, there were 42,642 people who died last year in car crashes (that's 5 people every hour, or 1 person every 12 minutes) and 230 children were killed simply from being backed over, run over by cars that rolled out of park, or other means.  Would $12,500 cover your liability if you killed someone?  What about if they were seriously injured by your car?  Chances are this would not be enough.

Specifically, what type of auto insurance is required at the time of an accident from a person causing a crash?
Whether you live in Akron, Cincinnati, Columbus, Miami, Dayton, Cleveland, Columbus, Hamilton, Deer Park, Indian Hill, Madeira, Toledo or Over the Rhine, Ohio has a Financial Responsibility Law that requires any person at fault in a crash resulting in bodily injury and/or $400 or more of property damage to others must have in effect at the time of the crash full liability insurance coverage. This coverage includes the minimum limits of bodily injury liability coverage of $12,500 per person, $25,000 per accident, and $7,500 property damage liability.

What is " Bodily Injury Liability" insurance?
The Ohio State Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) requires you to be able to pay for bodily injury meaning minor, serious or permanent injury, or death, that you cause to others when your car is involved in an auto accident.  Your insurance company will pay for injuries up to the limits of your policy and provide legal representation for you if you get sued. In particular, your company pays for injuries caused by you or members of your family who live with you, even if they were driving someone else's car. (Read your policy for all of the details.)  It may or may not also cover others who drive your automobile with your permission. This coverage also provides you with legal defense in the event you are sued by the injured party.  Again, read your Ohio auto insurance policy carefully for complete details.

What is "Property Damage Liability" insurance?
This auto insurance coverage pays for damages you, or members of your family perhaps (see your policy for details), cause (and are liable for) to other people's property from a car crash.  InstantCarInsurance.com can help provide you with multiple quotes instantly from many Ohio insurance companies which you can also buy on line. In order to get the best coverage at the lowest price it is important to comparison shop your car insurance. But be sure to read the policy and know what you are buying because the cheapest car insurance is not always the best car insurance.

Will I be required to verify proof of car insurance in Ohio?
The answer is...yes and no.  Ohio's FR law requires every applicant for registration of a motor vehicle and every applicant for a driver's license, or the renewal of such license, to sign a statement indicating that the applicant maintains, or has maintained proof of financial responsibility at the time of application, and the applicant will not operate a motor vehicle in Ohio without maintaining proof of financial responsibility.

Do they really check this?
Ohio law requires verification of proof of financial responsibility whenever a person is "randomly selected" by the BMV and requested to provide such verification.  This process includes the mailing of letters to a random selection of five percent (5%) of registered Ohio vehicle and noncommercial truck owners.  Approximately 5,400 notices are generated per week or 280,000 notices annually.

The BMV is required to send written notice by regular mail to the owner of each vehicle randomly selected, informing the owner that proof showing financial responsibility coverage was in effect on the date specified must be submitted within 21 days of the mailing of the notice.  This notification is sent to the person at the person's last known address as shown on the records of the BMV.

How do I respond if I am "randomly selected?"
The Random Selection Program is administered by a subsidiary office of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles located in Richfield, Ohio. Therefore, for this program only, correspondence should be addressed to:

Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles
P.O. Box 390
Richfield, OH 44286-0390

The phone number for questions is 1-866-835-6305

What if my car is broken down or I am simply not using it and the BMV asks for proof of auto insurance or financial responsibility which I do not have?
Simple.  The car owner may submit evidence showing the car is exempt because the vehicle:
1) Is used on a seasonal basis only and the date specified is out of season for that vehicle;
2) Is inoperable or has been out of service for a period of at least 30 days immediately prior to the selection date or;
3) Is exempt for any other reason the BMV may prescribe.


What is the penalty if I fail to maintain the required insurance or FR on my car?
Financial Responsibility Violator Penalties

Failure to provide proof of financial responsibility, when required, will result in the following civil penalties imposed by the Ohio Registrar of Motor Vehicles:

  • Lose driving privileges for a minimum of ninety (90) days and up to two (2) years;
  • Ohio License plates and car registration suspension;
  • License plate reinstatement fees of $125 for first violation, $300 for second violation, and $550 for a third or subsequent violation (this includes a $50 penalty for failing to surrender the Ohio license, Ohio plates or car registration to the BMV);
  • Require filing with the BMV (SR-22 or Bond) to continuously maintain proof of financial responsibility for a minimum of three (3), up to five (5) years from the date of the suspension of operating privileges;
  • Car immobilization and confiscation of Ohio plates for 30 to 60 days for violating FR suspension.  Third and subsequent offenses could result in car forfeiture and a five (5) year suspension of car registrations.

Driving and registration privileges cannot be restored until all requirements of the suspension have been met.

If my driving privilege is suspended because I am not properly insured, is there a penalty to reinstate my license?
Yes. (See above)  A reinstatement fee of $125 for first violation, $300 for second violation, and $550 for a third or subsequent violation (this includes a $50 penalty for failing to surrender the Ohio license, Ohio plates or car registration to the BMV).

Tip: You can always get proof of insurance quickly on-line in Ohio to use as proof of auto insurance and it is easy to obtain here directly from InstantCarInsurance.com.

Must I buy auto insurance to satisfy the Financial Responsibility (FR) requirements?
Not necessarily.  You can, but to comply with the FR requirements, individuals must only maintain one of the following:

  • A motorist liability insurance policy.  Insurance cards are issued by an insurer to the policy holder for each car insured under a motor vehicle liability insurance policy;
  • A $30,000 bond issued by an authorized surety or insurance company;
  • A certificate of proof of financial responsibility signed by an insurance agent on a form prescribed by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV);
  • A certificate issued by the BMV, after proper application and approval, indicating that money or government bonds in the amount of $30,000 is on deposit with the Ohio Treasurer;
  • A certificate of bond issued by the BMV, after proper application and approval, in the amount of $30,000 signed by two (2) individuals who own real estate having equity of at least $60,000;
  • A certificate of self-insurance issued by the BMV, after proper application and approval, to those with more than 25 cars registered in their name, or a company's name.

Helpful Tip: Should you choose the first option, try getting multiple quotes quickly and easily from InstantCarInsurance.com even if your auto insurance policy has lapsed and cannot be reinstated, or if you have been driving with no car insurance. This way you get back on track with your coverage immediately and return to compliance. It's simple, easy, fast, and a great way to lower your bills.

What should I do if I am involved in an automobile crash?
First, insist the crash be reported to law enforcement so that a law enforcement officer can complete the appropriate forms. It is advisable you not negotiate a payment agreement with the other parties to settle damages. Doing it on your own without a crash report from a law enforcement officer could result in not being fully compensated for your damages and can expose you to personal liability since no official report of the crash exists and circumstances become your word against theirs. The Ohio BMV will be unable to assist you if there is no crash report filled out by a law enforcement officer.

Other good suggestions include:

  • Make sure the investigating officer records complete auto insurance information on the crash report.
  • Report the crash to your auto insurance company immediately or within the time specified by your auto insurance policy.
  • If you determine that the other party is insured or uninsured, you should report the information to your auto insurance company so that they can pursue compensation since they have more information resources at their disposal.
  • Never personally confront an at-fault party with demands as you may be dealing with a violent person. Allow your car insurance company to handle that.

If you are involved in an auto crash without insurance or other FR proof, additional penalties may apply. You may have a security suspension for two (2) years or more and a judgment suspension for an indefinite period until the judgment is settled.

Other important advice:  If you are involved in a crash in which any party is injured or property damages exceed $400, you may file a BMV Crash Report (form BMV 3303). This is regardless of who was at fault. You should contact your insurance agent as soon as possible.  This form is not the same as the report taken by law enforcement officers at the crash scene.  In addition, you may file a Crash Report if you know, or have reason to believe, the other party was uninsured.

You should have your mechanic document any damage to your vehicle, and your insurance company attest to your insurance coverage. Also supply as much information as you have on the other party such as name, social security number, address, driver license number, plate number, make and model of car. Through the vehicle crash report, the Bureau will determine if the other party has insurance. If the other party is not insured, a letter of suspension will be sent to them. If the other party caused the damages, they may have their license suspended until they pay (or until they make arrangements to pay) your damages.

If I am approached by the at-fault party regarding releases, what should I do?

Settlements for damages are at your discretion. However, if you have been compensated by your auto insurance company for any damages or injuries sustained in the car crash, never sign a release or any document without consulting your car insurance company. When the car insurance company compensates you for your damages, they are vested with subrogation rights against the at-fault party. If you sign a release document you could be liable for monies paid to you by your auto insurance company.

For More Financial Responsibility Information Contact:

Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles
Safety Responsibility Division
P.O. Box 16583
Columbus, Ohio 43216-6583
(614) 752-7700

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