No one plans to be in a car accident, but you need to be covered if one happens
Sometimes, the minimum is good enough... but usually, that’s not the case when it comes to insurance.
Every state requires car insurance, and each state has its own regulations and laws for how it’s applied, minimum requirements, and how an accident is insured.
Each state in the U.S. is classified as either “at-fault” or “no-fault.” In an at-fault state, the driver who is at fault for an accident is legally responsible for the costs of damages and injuries. The at-fault driver’s insurance company pays for the other driver’s expenses.
If you’re in a no-fault state, each driver files a claim with their own insurance company, regardless of who was at fault.
Tennessee is an at-fault state, which means the person responsible for the crash is also responsible for covering the bills that arise as a result.
If you’re at fault in a Tennessee car accident and your vehicle is uninsured, you not only are financially responsible for the damages to the other driver (along with your own), but you also can be subject to traffic penalties.
Tennessee liability car insurance minimum requirements
- $25,000 for each injury or death per accident
- $50,000 for total injuries or deaths per accident
- $15,000 for property damage per accident
In Tennessee, you’re also required to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage equal to the amount of bodily injury and property damage in your policy.
What's the reporting law in your state? Find out here
In other words, if you carry the minimum for each type of coverage (25/50/15), you would need the same amount for each category for your uninsured motorist coverage.
Additional Tennessee insurance coverage
The reality is that even though your insurance policy might sound like it has good coverage, the minimums required by law are unlikely to be enough to cover an accident — even a small one.
Even good drivers occasionally cause an accident, and you’ll be responsible for paying expenses out of pocket if your insurance isn’t enough to cover one.
Think about it:
If you cause an accident while you have 1 passenger in your car and the other car has the driver and 3 passengers, that’s 6 people (including yourself) who could be injured. That comes to a little more than $8,000 per person. If everyone requires an ambulance ride and hospital visit (or even a medical evaluation with their doctor or urgent care) and maybe a few tests like X-rays or ultrasounds, that $8,000 per person adds up pretty quickly.
So, how can you protect yourself from paying additional costs?
Collision, comprehensive, and MedPay insurance
Liability insurance doesn’t cover damage to your own car.
That means if you’re not at fault, your options would be using your own collision insurance policy for damages or filing a lawsuit. Collision can also cover your expenses if you hit a pole, mailbox, or other stationary object and cause damage to your own vehicle.
Comprehensive insurance covers a variety of non-collision incidents like theft, vandalism, flooding, hail damage, fire, falling objects, collisions with an animal, and other types of accidents that don’t involve another vehicle. Most people who lease their cars or have a loan are required to carry both comprehensive and collision insurance.
MedPay covers medical expenses for a car accident regardless of who’s at fault. This might include hospital bills, deductibles, prescription medications, doctor visits, and other costs. It’s not required, but it’s a good idea to consider a MedPay addition to your policy.
|Tennessee car insurance laws
|Type of insurance
|$25,000 per person for bodily injury
$50,000 per accident for bodily injury
$15,000 for property damage
|Uninsured and underinsured motorist
|$25,000 per person
$50,000 per accident
|Recommended to have between $5,000 and $25,000
|Recommended based on need
|Recommended based on need
Penalties for driving without insurance in Tennessee
If you’re uninsured and involved in an accident that results in injury or death, you can be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor. The penalty includes fines up to $2,500 and jail time of up to 11 months and 29 days.
You might also face a driver’s license suspension, and in order to have it reinstated, you’d have to file an SR-22.
What’s an SR-22 insurance form?
An SR-22 form certifies to the state that you’re able to take financial responsibility for the cost of car insurance. You can obtain an SR-22 from your insurance company after purchasing a car insurance company, and this allows the insurance company to guarantee to the state that you are maintaining coverage and can be financially responsible for any accident. It also has the obligation to notify the state if you fail to pay a premium or if your insurance coverage lapses for any reason.
Is everyone required to get an SR-22?
There are certain conditions that would result in an SR-22 being required. These circumstances include:
- DUI or DWI
- Serious moving violation like reckless or negligent driving
- Obtaining a hardship or probationary license
- Reinstating a driver’s license after suspension or revocation
- Several traffic offenses within a short period of time
- Driving without insurance
- Being in an accident without insurance
- Being caught without car insurance for your registered vehicle
How much does an SR-22 cost?
Most car insurance companies charge a fee of around $25 for the SR-22. However, the other condition that caused you to be required to get an SR-22 will likely result in increased premiums, fees, or other costs. According to one rate analysis, a requirement for an SR-22 in Tennessee would likely result in a 75% rate increase on your insurance.
How much does car insurance cost?
Insurance should be considered part of the cost of owning a car — it’s just as essential as paying for gas, maintenance, or other expenses.
The insurance company will calculate your specific rate based on a variety of factors, including:
- Education and occupation
- Marital status
- ZIP code
3 ways to claim damages after a Tennessee car accident
- File a claim against your own insurance policy. If you weren’t at fault, this becomes a subrogation claim, which means your insurance company will pursue the claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
- File a third-party claim directly against the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
- File a personal injury lawsuit.
If the amount of your damages is higher than the amount covered under the at-fault driver’s insurance (or the uninsured motorist coverage), you can file a lawsuit for the difference.
An insurance claim will only cover medical treatment and property damage.
In a personal injury lawsuit, you can claim costs that include:
- Medical treatment (doctor and hospital visits, surgeries, diagnostic testing, prescription medication, etc.)
- Assistive devices like wheelchairs, walkers, prosthetics, etc.
- Lost wages and loss of future earning capacity during your recovery (or if you become disabled)
- Wrongful death if you’ve lost a family member in an accident
- Property loss
- Ongoing therapies or continued treatment
- Pain and suffering or other emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive damages
If the accident was serious and your damages are more than a one-time car repair and an easily treatable medical condition, filing a lawsuit might be your best bet. Especially if your physical condition might involve ongoing treatment, an insurance company likely won’t cover the extent of your future expenses — especially if they involve time lost from work (or a loss of future earning capacity) or ongoing therapies, emotional distress, or other non-economic damages.
If that’s the situation, you should call a Tennessee personal injury lawyer for advice. Even if the insurance company offers you a settlement, you can always call a lawyer for guidance. Your lawyer will be able to tell you if the offered settlement is enough to cover your expenses or if you’re likely to need more.