Almost every state requires motorists to register and insure their automobiles. In Tennessee, most drivers must purchase a minimum amount of liability coverage which can be used to offset the costs of accident-related expenses and reimbursement. However, not every motorist complies with state law. According to some estimates, nearly 25 percent of all Volunteer State residents drive without adequate insurance coverage, presenting a risk not only to themselves but to everyone around them.
After a car accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, victims without this extra protection might struggle to pay down the costs of their collision, even if they already have a comprehensive health insurance policy.
Mitigating the Risk of Uninsured Motorists
Tennessee has a fault-based insurance system. After an accident, victims have a right to recover damages from the at-fault motorist’s insurance company. However, survivors’ rights to financial compensation could be contingent on the extent of the at-fault motorist’s coverage. If the other driver had inadequate insurance coverage—or no coverage whatsoever—securing compensation could seem impractical, if not impossible.
Since lawmakers understand that some motorists drive without insurance, state law requires that insurance companies provide consumers with the option to purchase the following protections:
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage, sometimes referred to as “UM” or “UMBI,” can provide primary benefits to accident victims who were injured by:
- Drivers without liability coverage
- Hit-and-run drivers
- Drivers whose insurance company either denies coverage or has become insolvent
Uninsured motorist coverage can provide limited benefits in the event of an accident, which might include reimbursement for:
- Past, present, and anticipated medical bills
- Lost income from work
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Funeral expenses and burial fees
Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Underinsured motorist coverage provides similar benefits to drivers who were injured in an accident caused by a driver without sufficient insurance to compensate for their losses. In most circumstances, an underinsured motorist policy provides compensation on top of whatever the at-fault parties can cover.
Do You Need Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage may seem like an unnecessary expense. Under Tennessee state law, you’re not required to purchase any insurance coverage beyond the state-mandated minimum liability limits. However, here are some common misconceptions and the rationale for purchasing a policy.
The potential risk doesn’t justify the expense
An estimated 23 percent of Tennessee drivers have no insurance coverage whatsoever. Of those who do have valid liability policies, many only have the minimum required coverage—coverage that may only pay benefits of up to $25,000 per victim, or $50,000 per accident. While this might sound like a significant amount of money, it may not cover the costs of a serious accident-related injury.
Additional coverage is too expensive
Car insurance is a necessity, and most people don’t like the idea of paying any more than they have to. However, uninsured motorist coverage could be your only defense in the event you’re injured by an uninsured or hit-and-run driver. Although the costs of these policies vary between providers, purchasing additional protection is often more affordable than people expect.
You have health insurance
Health insurance often provides reimbursement for paid medical expenses after an accident. Unfortunately, most policies don't extend hardly any benefits for other accident-related damages, including lost income from work, emotional pain and suffering, and disfigurement.
While uninsured motorist coverage may not be a legal necessity, purchasing a policy can provide peace of mind and critical benefits if you’re injured due to someone else’s negligence.
Why You May Still Need an Attorney Even if You Have Uninsured Motorist Coverage
While you might feel more comfortable having your own insurance provider deciding your claim, insurance companies are still for-profit enterprises—and will often do everything in their power to minimize the viability of a claim, even if it means slashing victims’ benefits.