In Ohio, there is no requirement to have uninsured motorist coverage in a policy. However, you’re required to have bodily injury liability coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. You are also required to have property damage liability coverage of $25,000 per accident. Since you are not required to have uninsured motorist coverage, that’s where problems arise for some clients. When someone goes to their insurance agent or gets insurance coverage online, they often ask for “full coverage”. However, there really isn’t a definition of full coverage. The truth is that you are fully and legally insured with $25,000 liability per person. Still, that does not mean that you have any coverage for yourself or the members of your family. It means that you’re covered if you cause damage or bodily injury to someone else and their vehicle. Unless you ask for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, you will not have it in your policy. It’s not an automatic part of the policy.
Ohio does not require uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. However, it’s essential to carry it in your policy. Ohio law used to require insurers to offer this coverage or get a waiver from the insured if they declined coverage. Even though the law has now changed, I still highly recommend adding uninsured motorist coverage to your liability policy.
Uninsured motorist coverage insures you if you are injured by an uninsured motorist. For instance, if you’re in an accident that was caused by an uninsured driver, and you do not have uninsured motorist coverage, your policy will not cover your bodily injury and property damages. Unless you have collision coverage or uninsured motorist coverage, your vehicle will not be covered for property damage. Nor will you be covered for bodily injury.
In the 30 plus years that I have been handling these types of cases, most of my clients are surprised to learn that they don’t have anything that covers them personally. Many purchase what is required, but do not realize the implications for their own family members when a negligent driver is uninsured.
The next question clients usually ask me: “Why should I buy uninsured motorist coverage if everyone in Ohio is required to have liability coverage? That’s a valid question. However, despite the fact that it’s required, there’s a percentage of people that do not carry liability coverage. Additionally, if the at-fault person only has $25,000 in liability coverage, he or she would be legally complying with the law even if your damages are more than $25,000. A victim can sue the at-fault person and attempt to recover damages. However, if the at fault driver doesn’t have assets in excess, there’s very little chance anyone can recover beyond the policy limit. Therefore, I advise people that they should carry more than the minimum in addition to uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.
If you have underinsured motorist coverage and you’re involved in an accident in which the other person has $25,000 in coverage, your policy will cover the excess of your damages beyond the other person’s policy limit. For instance, if your damages are $50,000, you would recover $25,000 from the individual who hit you and $25,000 from your underinsured motorist coverage. As a result, you would be fully compensated for your damages. If you do not have underinsured motorist coverage, you have no place to go, which happens quite often. There are people driving around with only $25,000 and even without liability coverage despite of penalties. That’s a tragedy.
It’s quite a risk to take not to have uninsured motorist coverage. In the past, around 15% of drivers didn’t have insurance coverage. It varies by county. Some counties have more drivers without coverage than others. If you have the misfortune of being involved in an accident, you could run into one of those people, and you won’t be covered.
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage basically steps into the shoes of the at-fault driver for coverage. It covers your medical bills, bodily injury damages, pain and suffering, and property damage to your vehicle (uninsured motorist property damage). All the damages that you might incur in an automobile accident, including lost wages, would be covered by an uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. It would be as if the other person has coverage. The difference is that it’s your insurance company that is covering it.
Some people in Ohio sometimes ask, “Well, why should my I pay for this additional coverage?” The fact of the matter is that you’re purchasing this extra coverage specifically for that purpose. It doesn’t mean that you’re at fault in the accident. Your insurance is covering you and your family members for what the other driver should be responsible for. You’re not going to be penalized for using that coverage. It is not considered an at-fault claim. That coverage is specifically meant to cover you when the other person cannot and Ohio law prohibits insurers from increasing your policy costs when you are in an accident with an uninsured motorist and you are not at fault.