Ohio Car Accident and Personal Injury Laws

Here’s what you need to know about Ohio motor vehicle and personal injury laws. Protect your right to compensation for accidents caused by a negligent driver.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident in the State of Ohio, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage or personal injury claim.

When a negligent motorist caused your injuries, you’re entitled to seek compensation whether you were walking, riding, or driving your own vehicle.

In this article, we’ll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents.

For your convenience, we’ve summarized each law and provided a link directly to the specific State of Ohio statute in each section.

Pedestrian Traffic Laws

Pedestrians and Crosswalks

When traffic control signals are not in place, not in operation, or are not clearly assigning the right-of-way, drivers must yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing a crosswalk when the pedestrian is in the path of the vehicle or when the pedestrian is so close as to be in danger.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.46

Restrictions on Pedestrians Crossing Roadways

No pedestrian is permitted to suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to be an immediate hazard.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.46

Pedestrian Control Signals

Whenever special pedestrian control signals, exhibiting the words Walk or Don’t Walk or the symbols of a walking person or an upraised palm are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:

  • Walk or Walking Person. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right of way by the drivers of all vehicles.
  • Don’t Walk or Upraised Palm. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal, whether flashing or steady. Any pedestrian who has partially completed the pedestrian’s crossing on the Walk or Walking Person signal shall complete the crossing to a sidewalk or safety island while the Don’t Walk or Upraised Palm signal is showing.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.14

Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks

Pedestrians intending to cross a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.

Pedestrians must use only the marked crosswalk to cross between two adjacent intersections that have traffic-control signals in operation.

Pedestrians can cross an intersection diagonally only when it is authorized by traffic-control devices.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.48

Pedestrians on Roadway

Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon adjacent roadway.

Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the left side of the roadway or on it’s shoulder facing traffic from the opposite direction.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.50

Pedestrians’ Right of Way on Sidewalks

The driver of a vehicle must yield the right of way to any pedestrian on sidewalk.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.441

Drivers to Exercise Due Care

The driver of a vehicle must exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.48

Pedestrians Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance

A pedestrian who is under the influence of alcohol, any drug of abuse, or any combination of them to a degree that renders them a hazard is not permitted to not walk or be on a highway.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.481

Ohio Driving Laws

Obedience to Traffic Control Devices

A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver, unless directed by a traffic or police officer.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.12

Driving on Right Side of Roadway

Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:

  • When passing another driver in the same direction
  • When there is an obstruction in the right lane
  • Upon a roadway with three marked lanes of traffic
  • Upon a roadway restricted to one way traffic
  • When otherwise directed by a police officer or traffic control device

OH Rev. Code § 4511.25

Passing On the Left

Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and shall remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane. Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.27

Limitations on Overtaking on the Left

Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only if the left side is clearly visible and the overtaking vehicle can return to its lane without interfering with oncoming traffic.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.29

Passing On the Right

Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:

  • When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
  • When the roadway has two (2) or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.28

Following Too Closely

A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is “reasonable and prudent”, having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway. A driver who is towing another vehicle must leave sufficient space ahead of their vehicle to allow an overtaking vehicle to enter and occupy this space without danger.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.34

Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices

Drivers must not drive while using a mobile electronic device to write, send or read text-based communications, except to contact emergency services.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.204

Drivers who are less than 18 years of age or hold a probationary license must not drive while using a mobile electronic device, except to contact emergency services.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.205

Drivers and Intersections

When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver to their right.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.41

Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections

A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.42

Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway

A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all traffic on the roadway to be crossed.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.44

Bicycling Laws

Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.52

Motorcycling Laws

Motorcycles on Streets

Motorcyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.12

Motorcyclists and Lanes of Traffic

Motorcyclists must not ride more than two abreast in a single lane, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of motorcycles.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.55

Helmet Law

All motorcyclists less than 18 years of age and those with a novice license must wear helmets while riding on roadways.

All motorcyclists must wear protective eyewear while riding on roadways.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.53v1

Motorcycles and Headlights

Every motorcycle riding on a roadway must be equipped with at least one and not more than two headlights.

OH Rev. Code § 4513.04

Driving Offenses and Accident Rules

Driving Without Being In Reasonable Control of Vehicle

A driver who drives without being in reasonable control of the vehicle can be fined and imprisoned.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.202

Driving In Willful or Wanton Disregard

A driver who drives in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property can be fined and imprisoned.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.20

Driver’s Duty to Give Information

A driver involved in an accident resulting in a collision with a person or property must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has given their name, address, vehicle registration information, and upon request, their driver’s license information to any person involved in the accident.

If the injured person is unable to comprehend and record the information, then the driver must notify the police and remain at the scene of the accident until a police officer arrives.

OH Rev. Code § 4549.02

Accidents Involving Collision With a Person

A driver involved in an accident resulting in a collision with a person must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has given their name, address, vehicle registration information, and upon request, their driver’s license information to any person involved in the accident.

If the injured person is unable to comprehend and record the information, then the driver must notify the police and remain at the scene of the accident until a police officer arrives.

OH Rev. Code § 4549.02

Accidents Involving Collision With Property

A driver involved in an accident resulting only in damage to property or another car must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has given their name, address, vehicle registration information, and upon request, their driver’s license information to any person involved in the accident.

If the property owner cannot be located, the driver must attach the information, in writing, to a conspicuous place in or on the unoccupied or unattended motor vehicle.

Also, the driver who caused the accident must within 24 hours forward to the local police department or the county sheriff of the county their name, address, vehicle registration information, and upon request, their driver’s license information, as well as the location of the accident and a description of the damage.

OH Rev. Code § 4549.03

Driver’s Duty to Notify Police Department

A driver involved in an accident resulting in a collision with a person or unattended property must immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest police office.

Open Alcohol Container Law

A driver or passenger must not be in possession of an opened container of an alcoholic beverage while the car is on Ohio roadways.

An opened bottle of wine that has been purchased, opened and resealed by a permit holder can be kept only in the trunk of a vehicle, or in the area behind the rearmost upright seat where a passenger would not normally sit. It cannot be kept in the utility or glove compartment.

Passengers of a hired limousine can consume and possess an opened container of alcohol.

OH Rev. Code § 4301.62

Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance

A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways.

In Ohio, a driver is guilty of the offense of Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol and Drugs if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.19

Ignition Interlock Device

A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant might be ordered to have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device.

The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver’s driving privileges during the pendency of the driver’s probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.

An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver’s body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device.

If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge.

At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.

OH Rev. Code § 4511.19

Ohio Liability Laws

Ohio Dram Shop Law

Ohio has a modified Dram Shop Law. Dram Shop Law refers to the liability of private social hosts, bars, hotels nightclubs and other commercial establishments who serve alcohol to patrons or to minors for injuries intoxicated patrons or minors cause to third parties such as in car accidents.

A private social host is the host at a private party, such as a wedding reception, a corporate sponsored event, a gathering of friends at a private residence, where alcohol is served not for profit.

Under Ohio law, a liquor permit holder is responsible for the personal injuries and property damages caused by an intoxicated person only if the injuries and damages occurred on the property of the liquor permit holder.

The liquor permit holder is responsible personal injuries and property damages caused by an intoxicated person off their property only if the liquor permit holder sold liquor to a minor or an obviously intoxicated person.

OH Rev. Code § 4399.02

Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits

In the State of Ohio, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:

  • At least $25,000 per person
  • At least $50,000 for two or more people
  • $25,000 per occurrence for property damage

OH Rev. Code § 4509.01

For information about auto insurance, see the Ohio Department of Insurance Consumer Guide.

Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)

In Ohio, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim’s liability in causing the accident, their comparative negligence, affects the amount of compensation the victim receives.

If the victim contributed less than 51% of the negligence that caused the accident, then their compensation is reduced by the amount they contributed to the accident.

If the victim contributed 51% or more of the negligence that caused the accident, then the victim is barred from receiving any compensation.

OH Rev. Code § 2323.44v2

Example of Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)

One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie’s lane and their cars collided.

Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.

After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws.

A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson’s car crashed into Melanie’s. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving.

Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way.

However, the jury also found Melissa liable for using a mobile device while driving and partially responsible for the accident.

The verdict stated Jackson’s negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie’s equaled 30%. The jury awarded Melanie only $70,000 dollars.

In the event the jury had found Jackson’s negligence equaled 49% of the accident, and Melanie’s equaled 51%, the jury would be barred by law from awarding Melanie any compensation for the damages.

Ohio’s Fault-based Car Insurance

In Ohio, car owners are required to purchase liability insurance. In the event of an accident, the at-fault driver is liable for the personal injuries and damages caused as a result of the accident. To receive compensation, victims of car accidents can file a claim with the insurance provider of the at-fault driver or they can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver in civil court.

OH Rev. Code § 4509.101

Statute of Limitations

Ohio has a two (2) year statute of limitations for property damage and personal injury claims. This means if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or sustains property damage at the hands of a negligent driver, the victim must file a lawsuit within the two (2) year period following the accident, otherwise the victim is barred from pursuing the negligent driver in court.

OH Rev. Code § 2305.10

Small Claims Courts

In Ohio, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court. The jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of $3,000, exclusive of filing fees and court costs.

OH Rev. Code § 1925

Ohio Government Tort Claims – Sovereign Immunity

In Ohio, it is possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage as a result of negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees.

The claim must refer to a lawful action on the part of the governmental agency or employee performed in the scope of their duties. If the injury or property damage occurred as a result of an unlawful action, then the claimant can sue only the person(s) who caused injury or property damage individually. The governmental agency would not be liable.

OH Rev. Code § 2743

Example: Car Accident Caused by Government Employee 

If Melissa, an engineer with the Columbus Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a worksite and caused an accident, then the City of Columbus would be liable for the property damage and personal injuries caused by her.

If Melissa stopped for a few drinks and became intoxicated before heading to a worksite and causing an accident, then the City of Columbus can claim sovereign immunity. Melissa performed an unlawful act and was not acting in the scope of her duties when she became intoxicated on her way to the worksite.

To seek compensation for damages, injured parties would have to sue Melissa personally. The determination of whether or not Melissa was acting within the scope of her duties would have to be decided during a trial.

A government tort claim must be filed against the governmental agency responsible for the car accident within two (2) years after the accident.

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