Every auto subrogation professional handling Ohio claims should be aware of a new law aimed at making it easier for suspended drivers to get back on the road.
Governor John Kasich on August 3, 2018 signed into law House Bill 336, known as the “Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Initiative.” The new law will require the Ohio Registrar of Motor Vehicles to establish a 6 month driver’s license reinstatement fee reduction and amnesty program.
For those subrogation professionals who use license suspensions as a method of recovery, this is a law that needs their attention. Under this new statute, individuals with suspended licenses who have committed an “eligible offense” can apply to the Ohio BMV to either have their reinstatement fees reduced or have the fees waived completely if they meet various criteria.
Most eligible offenses are moving violations, but certain eligible offenses that have an impact on subrogation recoveries include: R.C. 4509.101 (Operating vehicle without proof of insurance), R.C. 4509.24 (Default on a payment that was required by written agreement after a motor vehicle accident) and R.C. 4509.40 (Nonpayment of Judgment). It is important to note that an eligible offense does not include an offense that involves alcohol, drug abuse, or a deadly weapon.
Additionally, under this new law, there are certain criteria an individual must meet before having their reinstatement fees reduced. A suspended driver must have completed all court-ordered sanctions related to the eligible offense other than the payment of reinstatement fees. Additionally, at least eighteen months must have expired since the end of the period of suspension ordered by the Court. For an individual to apply to have their reinstatement fees waived, the person must prove they are indigent by showing they are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”).
The new law impacts the state reinstatement fees but does not address the requirement of a payment arrangement with the insurer. What the new law does is make it easier for individuals with license suspensions to overcome the reinstatement fee hurdle to get their licenses back. It is hoped that additional subrogation recovery opportunities may result as suspended drivers will be more willing to set up a payment arrangement if they know they can bypass the reinstatement fees.
The new law had bipartisan support in the Ohio legislature. The Registrar of Motor Vehicles has 90 days to implement this new program and run it for 6 months, however, lawmakers hope to introduce legislation next year that will make the program permanent.
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Attorney Amanda Martanovic, CSRP, heads the automobile subrogation division at RMI.