Does Snow and Ice and Wintery Weather in Central Ohio Change Anything You Have to Do After a Car Accident?

If you are involved in a minor accident in Ohio's wintery weather, where maybe there is little to no damage to your vehicle or the other vehicle, then here are a few tips. 

  • First, if you think your vehicle has been hit, or if you've hit another vehicle, then you should pull over to the nearest place on the side of the road where it is safe to pull over.  Make sure that you are not putting yourself or any other vehicles in danger by where you are stopped, and by getting out of your vehicle.
  • Make sure that everyone is OK.  If you or anyone else indicates that they may be injured, then call your local police department or State Highway Patrol to report the accident and get a police officer and/or ambulance out to the scene as soon as possible.
  • If there are no injuries, then check out the damage to the vehicles and take lots of pictures of all sides of all vehicles involved.
  • The law requires you to remain on the scene of the accident until the drivers of all vehicles involved have exchanged each other's name, address, and vehicle registration number.  If the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, then that driver will need to give the name and address of the owner of the vehicle.  You will also want to exchange insurance identification cards, take a picture of the other driver's Driver's ID car with your phone camera, and take a picture of the other driver's license plate.
  • It is generally a good idea to call the other driver's insurance company at the scene of the accident in order to make sure that they are current on their insurance and are covered - you do not need to file a claim right then and there.
  • After the accident, if you have comprehensive collision coverage, then you can contact your own insurance company.  You have the choice to either file a claim through your own insurance company or through the at fault driver's insurance company.  If you go through your insurance company, then you will likely have a deductible (which is recoverable).

Is it really necessary to contact the police after a minor accident?

  • If there are injuries or significant damages to any vehicle - then yes, call the local police as soon as possible after the accident (especially in cold weather in order to get them out to the accident quicker).
  • For minor fender benders - it can be more of a judgment call:
    • The reasons to call the police is to get a police report documenting the accident.  If you get any indication that there might be problems in getting the other driver to cooperate with you in proceeding with an insurance claim, then call the police.
    • If there is no noticeable damage to either vehicle and it is very cold outside and you have exchanged all information with the other driver, and taken photographs of both vehicles, then you probably do not have to notify the police.
      • Even if there is no damage to the vehicles, you still want to get photographs in order to prevent possible insurance fraud by the other party in the future (them claiming damages to their vehicle after the accident).  With this in mind, get photographs of the entire vehicle.
  • If the accident is truly minor, and no one is injured, then in Columbus you can file your own traffic accident report anytime within 6 months of the accident.
    • In Columbus you can download a form online and submit the form yourself.  You can find this form by Googling "Columbus police traffic accident report."
    • Anywhere outside of Columbus you may not be able to do this, but you can always contact your local police department and ask about getting a crash report after the fact of the accident (this should be done as soon as possible after the accident.)

Is it necessary to have an attorney for a minor vehicle accident?

  • For a minor vehicle accident you most likely will not need an attorney.  If you have insurance and the other driver has insurance, then you simply need to contact your insurance company and have them sort things out with the other insurance company.  That is partially what you pay your insurance company for - to do the work and sort things out for you.
  • You may need an attorney if the at fault driver was uninsured and you only have liability insurance, i.e., there is no insurance coverage for the accident.  In this situation, an attorney can be helpful to you in filing a BMV form in order to suspend the at-fault driver's license until they pay you for your damages.

Can I still be at fault for an accident even though it was because my vehicle was uncontrollably sliding on ice?

  • In Ohio, the law will never consider an accident to be the ice's fault rather than a drivers.  Even if the circumstances of the accident were beyond your control, the law in Ohio will still hold you responsible if you violate the Assured Clear Distance Ahead law (where you need to leave enough room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you to make a complete stop).
  • You are legally responsible for making the decision to drive in bad weather conditions.  If you get into an accident in bad weather conditions, then the law will deem it to be your fault for putting yourself into that situation in the first place.  If it is not safe to be driving, then you should not be driving.

Is there anything that I can do to better prepare myself for driving in snowy or icy road conditions?

  • The best thing you can do in Ohio when driving in the winter is to be prepared ahead of time so that you can either better avoid a traffic accident or be better prepared if you are actually involved in one.
  • In the winter, it is a good idea to keep a few items in your vehicle just in case you ever get stuck in the snow, such as: a metal shovel for digging yourself out of the snow and through ice, road flares to warn other drivers, a blanket and some extra warm clothes in case you get stranded, a bag of kitty litter to spread out under your tires in case you get stuck in ice or snow.
  • It is also a good idea to always keep a pen and paper in your glove compartment along with your insurance information so that if you have to write down the other driver's information after an accident then you have something available
  • Check your insurance to see if you have comprehensive and underinsured/uninsured coverage, and road side assistance.  Comprehensive and collision insurance coverage provides payment for your own vehicle if you are involved in an accident, even if you are at fault.  Uninsured coverage provides coverage for your own vehicle if you get involved in an accident with someone without insurance.




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