Ohio’s New Distracted Driving Law: Phones Down!

According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, since 2018, distracted driving has led to over 63,000 crashes, over 1,800 fatal or serious injuries, and over 40,000 violations,[1] 39% of distracted driving crashes involve an at-fault driver between the ages of 15 and 24.[2] Previously, drivers over the age of 17 had to commit another traffic violation in addition to texting while driving to be pulled over. The Ohio legislature passed a new law seeking make distracted driving laws stricter.

In Ohio, it is now illegal to use or hold, with any part your body, a cell phone or other electronic device while driving. Ohio’s SB 288 allows police officers to pull over drivers for violating the new law. But the law also has some exceptions and different requirements depending on the age of the driver. Law enforcement will be issuing citations under the new law beginning on October 05, 2023.

Drivers over the age of 18 are allowed to make and receive calls so long as they can do so hands-free via some other means like using speakerphone, connecting the phone to the car with Bluetooth, or using an earpiece.

The new law, with some exceptions, prohibits any use of one’s phone that requires them to hold and interact with the phone. For instance, and among others, dialing a phone number, sending a text message, and browsing the internet are all prohibited regardless of the driver’s age.

The law also lists some narrow circumstances under which the broad prohibition is lifted. For example, phones can be used if the driver is reporting an emergency to law enforcement or another, similar entity. Drivers can also make and receive calls by holding the phone to their ear so long as the call can be answered using a single swipe. And drivers can use or hold their phones while stopped at a traffic light or parked on the side of the road during an emergency. Absent any of these exceptions, drivers who violate the law are subject to penalties.

In the first offense over the course of two years, the violator will have two points assessed to their license and they will be subject to a fine of up to $150. The second offense in two years results in three points and up to a $250 fine.  For three or more offenses in two years, the violator receives four points, up to $500 in fines, and a possible 90-day suspension of their license. Each of these fines double if the violation occurred in a work zone.

[1] https://statepatrol.ohio.gov/dashboards-statistics/ostats-dashboards/distracted-driving-dashboard/

[2] Id.

Year-End Checklist: Planning & Protection for Your Family

As the calendar turns to December, and before the rush of holidays kicks into high gear, now is a great time to review your estate plan and insurance coverage. Have you updated your estate plan recently? Do you even have an estate plan? When is the last time you met with your insurance agent to discuss your car and home coverage? Do you have enough life insurance? Here are five things that every family should review.

  1. Review your estate plan. Have you had any life changes this year? Good reasons to review and update your estate plan include marriage, a new baby, divorce, a death in the family, perhaps you bought a vacation home or condo out of state.
  2. Review your beneficiary designations. When is the last time you checked your beneficiary designations on your life insurance or retirement accounts? Do you have retirement benefits from an old job that you have not thought about for years?
  3. Talk to your insurance agent. Ignore the television commercials that brag about state minimum coverage. Make sure that your family is adequately covered if you or a family member causes a car accident. The state minimum coverage in Ohio is $25,000/50,000. With the ever-rising cost of medical care, that can go very quickly.  Make sure that your liability coverage is sufficient that your personal assets will not be at risk. I always highly recommend umbrella policies as well, which provide excess coverage in case of a more serious accident. Finally, make sure that you have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. If you are injured by a driver with either no insurance or very low limits, your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage may be the only way you can be compensated for your injuries.
  4. Review your life insurance policies. Life insurance is particularly important for families with young children. But your need for life insurance evolves and changes over the course of your life. It is a good practice to occasionally review your coverage and make sure that you have the right amount of life insurance for your needs.
  5. Talk to your family. Avoid conflict and surprises when possible. Tell your family about your plans and wishes. Let your family know that you have an estate plan, where to find it, and what to do in case of an emergency. Stay organized and tell your family where they can find your important documents.

Some of these checklist items you can do on your own. For others, you may need to contact your financial advisor, CPA, or insurance agent. Please contact McCarthy Law Office to discuss your estate planning needs. I will make the process as straightforward and painless as possible. Take these steps to plan for and protect your family as 2022 turns to 2023.


How to Include Social Media and Online Accounts In Your Estate Plan

An estate plan often focuses on tangible property such as jewelry, real estate, money, and vehicles. However, in this age of technology, it is important to remember to include your digital assets. Digital assets consist of everything we own online. Because we spend more time on computers and smartphones than we ever did before, you may not realize how much digital stuff you own, from photos and videos to online accounts, cryptocurrency, and nonfungible tokens (NFTs).

Why Is It Important to Plan for Digital Assets?

Planning for digital assets is important for several reasons. First, without a plan, digital assets may get lost in the Internet ether and not pass to your loved ones after your death due to the simple fact that their existence is unknown. Second, planning now means your family will not have to worry about hunting for these items upon your death while also grieving a beloved family member. Third, like most adults (roughly 70 percent of them), you want certain aspects of your digital life to remain private. If you do not create a plan, your loved ones may learn things that you wish to keep secret. Finally, planning now can minimize the risk of identity theft, which happens to 2.4 million deceased Americans each year. Keep reading to learn more about why it is important to include digital assets in your estate plan and how to account for them.

Digital Assets: What Are They?

Instead of existing in photo albums and on videotapes and DVDs, most of our family photos and videos are now digital. Even if they lack commercial value, they certainly have sentimental value that you want to preserve for your family and friends. Social media accounts containing your photos and videos can also have value to your loved ones when you are gone. For example, a Facebook account can serve as a memorial after you pass away. When you consider all of the other accounts that you log into (more than 130 on average), the list becomes quite lengthy.


Digital assets that you may own include the following:

  • Social media accounts (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
  • Financial accounts at brick-and-mortar and online institutions
  • Business documents and other files stored in the cloud
  • Cryptocurrency
  • NFTs
  • Databases
  • Device backups
  • Internet domain names and uniform resource locators (URLs)
  • Streaming service accounts (e.g., Netflix, Peacock, Hulu)
  • Merchant accounts (e.g., Amazon, Etsy, eBay)
  • Gaming tokens
  • Virtual avatars
  • Points-based loyalty programs (e.g., for groceries, gas stations, airlines, and hotels)
  • Rights to intellectual property, artwork, and literature
  • Online betting accounts
  • Monetized video content


Including Digital Assets in Your Estate Plan

Taking inventory of your digital assets may take some time, but it is worthwhile. If something were to happen to you, your estate planning attorney or another trusted person should have complete access to your online footprint. This includes usernames and passwords for all accounts. Tools such as Dashlane or the password manager integrated in your browser can be used to simplify the storage of usernames and passwords.


In addition, you should continuously back up all digital assets, including photos and important documents, to the cloud, and ensure that your attorney and trusted person can easily access them when the time comes.


Because they are not controlled by governments or banks, cybercurrency and NFTs must be handled carefully. You do not have the option of calling customer service to reset your password if you forget or lose it. NFT and cryptocurrency passwords should be stored online in a “hot wallet,” or in an offline device known as a “cold wallet.” Either way, someone needs to know how to access your passwords when you cannot.


Other estate planning considerations for digital assets include the following:

  • Your estate plan can provide that your digital possessions be handled by one or more cyber successors who can distribute your digital assets like tangible property.
  • One cyber successor can control your Instagram account, for example, while another can take possession of your Bitcoin.
  • Keep in mind that passwords should not be memorialized in your will, especially regarding cryptocurrency, as they could be made public if the will is submitted to probate court.
  • Consider how technologically savvy a person is before appointing that person as your cyber successor.

Next Steps for Your Digital Assets

Talk to McCarthy Law Office about your digital assets and cyber successors. Have a conversation with potential cyber successors about how they would handle your assets, and make sure that they would carry out your wishes before appointing them. Digital assets can be placed into a trust or distributed through your will, or you could grant access to them through a power of attorney. With the help of an experienced estate planning attorney, you can feel relieved that your digital assets will be easily located, managed, and passed to your loved ones.

Why Every Ohio Driver Should Have Underinsured and Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Ohio requires all drivers carry liability insurance. However, the state only requires a minimum policy of $25,000/$50,000. The first number is the required coverage per person, while the second number is the required coverage for all persons injured in any one collision. Ask anyone who has ever received any medical care (so probably everyone) medical bills can get very high very quickly. Add in lost wages and other economic damages, you can see that $25,000 coverage is not going to go very far in the event of a collision.

So what happens if you are hit by a driver with the state minimum coverage? You may very well be limited to recovering their policy limits. While injured parties can seek the personal assets of negligent drivers, in reality, that can be difficult, especially if the driver who caused the wreck has limited assets. The best solution is to protect yourself by carrying underinsured motorist coverage (UIM). This coverage kicks in for amounts over the policy limits of the at-fault driver. The amount you should carry depends on your personal situation, but it is certainly advisable to exceed the state minimum requirements of $25,000.

According to some published reports, over 10% of Ohio drivers disregard the law and carry no liability insurance. That is why it is also important that you carry uninsured motorist coverage (UM). This coverage applies if you are injured as the result of negligence of a driver with no insurance.

Ohio does not mandate either UIM or UM coverage, but everyone should consult with the insurance agent to be sure you are covered if you are hit by a driver with either low limits or worse, no coverage at all.

If you are injured by the negligence of an uninsured or underinsured driver, let McCarthy Law Office guide you through the process and fight for the maximum amount of compensation.



Legal Documents For Your College-Bound Student

This one hits close to home. I recently attended my daughter’s Donuts with Dad breakfast for high school seniors. As a parent of a child who is about to turn 18, my wife and I are preparing for my daughter’s college career. Part of that process includes getting legal documents in place.

The documents that I recommend for your high school graduate include the following:

  • Health Care Power of Attorney. This document allows your student to designate an agent to make medical decisions if they are not able to communicate their wishes.
  • Living Will. This document is similar to the Health Care Power of Attorney but is more limited to end-of-life decisions.
  • Durable Power of Attorney. This allows your student to appoint an agent to make financial transactions. This can be particularly important if your student is away at college, but needs a parent to access bank accounts or deal with financial institutions.

High school graduation is also a good time for parents to examine and update their estate plans. It is common for parents to draft a Will upon the birth of their first child, then just stash the documents away for years upon years. If you are in need of legal documents for your high school graduate and soon-to-be college student, or if you are need of a review and update of your estate plan, please contact me at mccarthy@danmccarthylaw.com or 513-815-7006 for a consultation.


McCarthy Appointed to Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission

Dan McCarthy was recently appointed to the Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission (“RPC”). Dan’s term expires on March 6, 2024. The RPC responsibilities include, among others:

  • Review all preliminary subdivision plans and approves, disapproves, or conditionally approves such plans;
  • Reviews and approves or disapproves all Final Plats;
  • Grants or denies requests for variations.

Dan has previously advised administrative bodies, such as Zoning Boards, represented clients before governmental boards, and has even sued boards when necessary. Sitting on a County-wide Board provides a different perspective, sitting as a member of the decision-making Board.