Very few car accident lawsuits are “open and shut” cases. Most involve complex questions of law and competing narratives about what happened—and who’s to blame.
In Ohio, even when the law may not appear to be on your side, you shouldn’t assume anything. And you definitely shouldn’t conclude you don’t have a case without talking to an Ohio car accident lawyer. While the questions and answers below are meant to give you a better understanding of some gray areas, there is no substitute for speaking to an attorney if you’ve been involved in a car accident.
Have questions about the law and your legal rights? Get answers during a free case review with Graham & Graham.
Does not wearing a seatbelt mean I don’t have an auto accident case?
Not wearing a seatbelt does not mean you don’t have a case, but it could mean you have to accept less compensation for any injuries or damages.
In Ohio, failure to use a seatbelt is admissible evidence in a personal injury car accident lawsuit. So, if you were injured in a car accident while not wearing a seatbelt and sue the at fault driver, they could use this as a defense against their liability. However, the law simply allows the judge to “diminish a recovery of compensatory damages,” which is non-economic compensation, i.e., compensation for pain and suffering. Compensation for lost wages and medical care is unaffected by whether you were or were not wearing a seatbelt during the accident.
Do I have to file a lawsuit to have a case?
No. Most cases are resolved between an insurer and injured parties before a lawsuit is filed. And even in cases where a car accident lawsuit is filed, a settlement is usually reached before a trial takes place.
However, when you hire a car accident lawyer, they will handle all communications with the at fault driver’s insurance company on your behalf. This includes negotiating a reasonable payment for your accident-related losses. If the insurance company does not make a satisfactory offer, your lawyer may then file a lawsuit, which can put more pressure on the insurer to settle. But even if the lawsuit moves forward, a settlement can be reached at any time up until the court rules on the case.
How long do I have to pursue a claim?
Every state has laws known as “statutes of limitations” that govern how long a claimant has to file a lawsuit. If you plan on filing a claim against the responsible party in a car accident, the Ohio statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident. For uninsured/underinsured motorist claims, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the accident, unless shortened by the terms in your insurance contract.
You should never delay filing a car accident claim. The more time that goes by, the harder it can be to prove your case. Also, keep in mind that if filing an uninsured/underinsured policy with your own insurance company, the insurer may have requirements for when you have to report an accident.
Law enforcement said I was at-fault, but I wasn’t. Do I have a case?
After a car crash, the police will arrive at the scene and write up an accident report. Police officers may—but don’t always—assign fault in a car accident. And just because a police officer assigned fault to you doesn’t mean their assessment is the final word. You may be able to convince the insurance company that the other driver caused the accident. You’ll need evidence, though, that contradicts the police report. Evidence can be provided in the form of eyewitness accounts, forensic analysis, and photographs. Once you file a lawsuit, information can be obtained from the other driver that may not be otherwise available. Car accident lawyers may also hire experts to help prove your case.
I forgot to buckle my child in a car seat and was involved in an accident that injured my child. Does my child have a case?
Ohio’s Child Passenger Safety Law requires that children younger than four years old or under 40 pounds use a child safety seat. Children younger than eight years old must use a booster seat unless they’re at least four feet, nine inches tall.
While you may face a fine of $25 to $75 for not following the law, failing to restrain your child does not affect their ability to be compensated for a car accident. The law specifically states that failing to restrain your child “is not negligence imputable to the child” and “is not admissible as evidence in any civil action involving the rights of the child against any other person allegedly liable for injuries to the child.”
Can a police officer be held accountable for injuring someone in a car accident?
Generally, the police can be held liable for causing injuries like any other driver. The situation gets trickier when law enforcement is performing their duty during an emergency. Officers may be exempt from certain traffic laws when, for example, they are involved in a high-speed chase. Ohio’s Supreme Court, however, has ruled that officers can be held liable for a car accident if their conduct is “wanton or reckless.”
I was hit by a motorist while working on a road crew. Can I sue the driver?
If you are injured by a negligent motorist who is not a fellow employee, it may be possible to file a personal injury claim. You may also be afforded workers’ compensation benefits. Other potential third parties could have contributed to your injury in a workplace scenario as well. Receiving advice from an attorney will ensure that you discover all responsible parties to pay for your damages.
Someone turned in front of me as I was driving down the road and I struck their vehicle. Am I at fault?
If you had the right of way and the other driver turned across your lane or pulled out in front of you, that driver is likely at fault. Oncoming traffic does not have a responsibility to slow down or yield to a turning motorist. However, you may be at fault if you were speeding, running a red light, not paying attention—texting, eating, switching the radio, etc. while driving—or breaking another traffic law. But, technically, it’s possible for blame to be shared between multiple parties in any Ohio motor vehicle accident. Ultimately, accident fault is determined by evaluating all the available facts.
I was hit by a drunk driver. Does their insurance protect me?
In the event that the responsible party to an accident was intoxicated, you will still likely have a case. The fact that the other driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol does not void the driver’s insurance. In fact, their intoxication may be an aggravating factor in the case, opening up certain arguments that add value to your claim rather than decrease its value.
I was struck by an automobile while walking across the street. Can I file a claim as a pedestrian?
Depending on the facts of the accident, you may have a case against the driver who hit you if you are injured as a pedestrian. However, a proper investigation will need to be performed and certain questions will need to be answered. For example, it needs to be determined whether you had the right of way and if you were clearly visible to the driver.
Do I really need an attorney for my car accident case?
It is in your best interest to seek attorney advice after a car accident. Every accident has unique circumstances that require individual attention. The attorneys at Graham & Graham offer free consultations for all potential personal injury clients. You have nothing to lose—and potentially much to gain—by scheduling a free case review with us.
When in Doubt, Talk to a Lawyer
Legal information about car accidents is plentiful on the internet. However, none of these resources are as helpful as actually speaking with a lawyer. Every case is unique and should be reviewed with the specific facts in mind. You have nothing to lose—and possibly a lot to gain—by scheduling a free case review with Graham & Graham. Call 1-800-621-8585 or Contact Us to get started.