Written by attorney John Robert Sauter

At Fault Without Auto Insurance - What to Expect in Ohio

In Ohio, as in nearly all other states, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle without proof of insurance or other proof of financial responsibility. If you drive without insurance, you risk facing stiff penalties and fines.

Penalites and fines for driving without insurance include:

  • Loss of driving privileges for up to two years;
  • License suspension and suspension of vehicle registration;
  • Reinstatment fees ($150-600);
  • Requirement to carry SR-22 insurance (aka 'high risk insurance');
  • Impoundment of vehicle following third offense

Ohio drivers are asked for proof of insurance when stopped by the police for a traffic violation. If a driver cannot provide proof of insurance at the time of the violation, he or she can provide the proof to a court of law. The driver must show proof of coverage at the time of the violation - he or she can't 'backdate' coverage by applying for and receiving insurance coverage after a traffic violation.

Ohio drivers can also be randomly asked to show proof of insurance through a letter they receive in the mail from the BMV. Roughly 5% of Ohioans are asked for proof via mail each year - 5,400 per week or 280,000 annually. If a person fails to respond within 21 days of being asked for proof, their license is automatically suspended.

The most severe penalities and fines occur when an individual without auto insurance causes a motor vehicle collision. If the uninsured driver causes damages greater than $400, a court can impose a 'security suspension' that prohibits the uninsured driver from driving until a full payment or payment agreement is made.

An uninsured driver who is at-fault can expect to be sued by the other driver's insurance company. The insurance company will sue to recover their costs - the costs of fixing the other driver's vehicle AND the costs of medical care, if any, provided to the other driver. These costs can easy escalate to tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It will be the uninsured driver's responsibility to pay for an attorney or otherwise defend against the lawsuit. If the uninsured driver does not defend against the lawsuit and the court grants a default judgment against the uninsured driver, the uninsured driver will likely lose their license as the result of what is called a judgment suspension. The suspension will last until the uninsured driver enters into a payment plan or pays off the full amount of the debt - which can take years!

If the uninsured driver doesn't willingly enter into a payment plan to repay the costs of fixing the other driver's car, medical bills, etc, the judgment holder will likely seek to garnish the uninsured driver's wages and/or bank account and deduct money until the judgment is paid. If the judgment is in an amount that would be difficult to satisfy via garnishment, the judgment holder can petition the court to force the uninsured driver to sell their property (house, cars, appliances, furniture) so that the proceeds of the sale go towards the judgment.

Bottom line - if you drive without auto insurance in the State of Ohio, you run the risk of incurring severe, life-changing penalites: license suspension, impoundment, fines, judgments, loss of property and bankruptcy.

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