Car accidents are terrible. If all you have is property damage, you're lucky. Because crashes can be so terrible, it's only natural for you to become scared and confused afterwards. In these times it's best to have a plan. Here is a guide to the laws and legal consequences of a car accident in Cleveland. The law is generally the same throughout Ohio, but this guide will include information specific to the Greater Cleveland area, including Cuyahoga and Lorain Counties.
What To Do Immediately After a Collision
The State of Ohio requires drivers to complete several tasks after a crash. The number one rule is safety. Beyond that, try your best to comply with these requirements.
Give "Aid" to Injured Persons
Many states have laws that make it a crime to fail to give "reasonable assistance" to injured parties after an accident. The Buckeye State has no criminal law on the books, but the Department of Public Safety recommends that you "aid the injured." Ohio has a "Good Samaritan Law" that generally protects people from liability if giving assistance at the scene of an emergency.
Give Your Identifying Information
Typically, collisions will involve more than one driver. A driver must, after a crash, stop at or near the scene. You are not allowed to leave until you have provided: (1) your name, (2) your address, and (3) your vehicle registration number. If you are not the owner, you must also provide (4) the owner's name and (5) address. Give all of this information to any other drivers involved in the accident and to any passengers that were injured. If an injured person cannot receive the information, you must provide the information to the local law enforcement.
Some accidents only involve one driver, but causes damage to another person's property (example: parked car or fence). If you were driving and caused one of these accidents, you must stop the car and do a "reasonable search" for the owner of the property. Provide all of the above-mentioned information. If you cannot find the owner after a reasonable search, you must notify law enforcement.
Here are some helpful phone numbers in the event that you must notify law enforcement:
- Cleveland Police Department: (216) 623-5000
- Ohio State Highway Patrol, Brookpark Facility: (216) 285-1677
- Elyria Police Department: (440) 323-3302
- Lorain Police Department: (440) 204-2103
You should ask for all of the information that your are required to provide. In addition, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles suggests that you should record the following:
- Dates of birth for other people involved
- License plate and driver license numbers
- Weather and road conditions
- Name and address of each driver's insurance company
If another driver involved in the collision does not have insurance, record that fact. You may later choose to file a Crash Report with the BMV to suspend the uninsured person's driving privileges. You will need the recommended information above, and you must submit the report within six months of the crash.
What To Expect from Law Enforcement
Law enforcement's reaction after a reported car accident can vary. State laws do not require any unit to respond to all calls; officers only have to respond where there's been an injury. If an officer does show up at the scene, he or she must write a crash report. If Cleveland P.D. reported your accident, reports are available after eight days. You can obtain reports online or at the Justice Center at 1300 Ontario Street.
If the Highway Patrol reported your accident, reports are available no sooner than seven business days after the crash. In some cases you may have to wait longer. You can request a crash report and/or photos online or by mail.
Alcohol and Drug Tests
The fact that you were in an accident may give an officer reason to suspect you of Operating a Vehicle under the Influence ("OVI"). The officer may then request a blood alcohol test. If you fail the test or refuse to take it, your license will be suspended immediately.
Possible Legal Consequences of an Accident
Liability for the Accident
The Ohio State Bar Association recommends that drivers notify their insurance provider of an accident as soon as possible. Car insurance policies cover the typical cases of liability. The policies also typically cover legal defense. If you are unsure if you are covered, you may need a Cleveland personal injury attorney to help with your case.
Recover for Personal Injuries and Property Damage
Ohio laws help accident victims recover for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, and other amounts related to other people's driving mistakes. You likely did not expect to be in an accident, so you probably did not save money for an attorney's help in this situation. Many Greater Cleveland lawyers do not charge up front, but instead take a percentage of your settlement or damages award.
Some car accidents are the result of "motor vehicle crimes." If you are convicted of a motor vehicle crime, you could be punished with a fine, suspension of driving privileges, jail time, and more. You should ask for an attorney as early in the criminal investigation as possible.Take a look at the FindLaw pages to find a criminal attorney that can help you.