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YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS | Why do I have to purchase auto insurance?

Here is a fact: 12.4 percent of Ohio — an astonishing 1 million people — don’t have insurance. That means there’s a good chance the person who rear-ends you while texting behind the wheel doesn’t have coverage.
Attorney David Betras

Anyone who has seen one of our TV ads, visited,  logged onto our social media sites, listened to the “Legally Speaking” radio call-in show, or read this column knows I’m no fan of insurance companies.   

That’s why you’ll probably be shocked by this: If you have a car you must insure it.

I’m not saying that because a piece of the rock has hit me in the head and knocked me senseless or because Ohio’s Financial Responsibility law requires drivers to obtain and maintain coverage.  I’m begging, yes, begging people to fork over money to an industry I loathe so I don’t have to have a conversation like this ever again: 

Caller: “Hello, Attorney Betras. I’ve been in a car accident and I need your help.”
DB: “That’s why we’re here. Let me ask you a few questions. Were you or a person in the car with you hurt?”
Caller: “Yes.”
DB: “Was your car damaged?”
DB: “Was the other driver cited?”
Caller: “Yes.”
DB: “Does the other driver have insurance?”
Caller: “No.”
DB: “Do you have insurance?”
Caller: “No.”

At which point I put my head in my hands, sigh and wish the caller well. 

I’m having this conversation more often than ever because 12.4 percent of Ohio — an astonishing 1 million people — don’t have insurance. That means there’s a good chance the person who rear-ends you while texting behind the wheel or the guy in the rusted-out pickup who T-bones you after cruising through a red light doesn’t have coverage.

And while our law firm has won millions for accident victims, if no one involved in a crash has insurance it’s virtually impossible for us to recover the funds needed to pay for medical care, replace or repair vehicles or compensate victims for other damages. As a result, people who were hurt due to someone else’s negligence could be on the hook for 10’s or 100’s of thousands of dollars in expenses.

Fortunately, you can take action to protect yourself and your financial future. First and foremost, purchase vehicle insurance that at the very least meets state standards: 

• $25,000 for bodily injury to or death of one individual in any one accident;
• $50,000 for bodily injury to or death of two or more individuals in any one accident;
• $25,000 for injury to the property of others in any one accident.

Second, buy comprehensive rather than just liability coverage. A liability policy will not pay for any damage to your own vehicle. Comprehensive policies take care of damage done to other vehicles and your own.

Third, consider adding uninsured motorist coverage to your policy. The few extra bucks it costs each month are a sound investment at a time when so many people are driving around without insurance. If you have this coverage, your insurance company will pick up the tab for damages resulting from a wreck.

So, as much as I hate to say it, you should let Allstate stick their good hands in your pockets for monthly premiums so we can stick our hands in their very deep ones and extract the cash you deserve if and when you’re in an accident.

It’s simply the prudent thing to do.

—  Attorney David Betras, a senior partner at Betras, Kopp & Harshman LLC., directs the firm’s non-litigation activities and practices criminal defense law in both the state and federal courts. He has practiced law for 35 years. Have a legal question you'd like answered here? Send it to