As in most states, Tennessee law requires drivers to take financial responsibility if they cause a car accident. Most drivers meet this requirement by carrying liability insurance. The law requires them to carry this insurance in the following minimum amounts:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury per person
  • $50,000 for bodily injury per accident
  • $15,000 for property damage per accident.

However, a large number of drivers in Memphis carry only the minimum amount of liability insurance, while many other drivers carry no insurance at all in violation of the law. For this reason, some people like to give themselves extra protection and buy uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage.

Do you know what type of auto insurance coverage you have? Do you have UM/UIM? Do you know how the insurance will protect you if you are involved in an accident in Memphis or a surrounding community?

Here, we answer some frequently asked questions about UM/UIM insurance and how an experienced Memphis underinsured motorist lawyer from the Law Office of David E. Gordon can help if you or a loved one suffers injuries in a crash. Attorney David E. Gordon is a board-certified civil pretrial and civil trial advocate who can provide a free review of your case today. Call or reach us online to learn more.

What is uninsured motorist coverage?

Uninsured motorist (UM) insurance pays benefits if you get into an accident that a driver with no insurance caused. UM also covers crashes that involve hit-and-run drivers. This coverage primarily pays medical bills and replaces that a person loses due to his or her injuries. It covers drivers, passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists to whom the policy applies.

What is underinsured motorist coverage?

Underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance pays benefits if you get into an accident that involves an at-fault driver whose insurance fails to fully cover all of your losses. UIM will cover the difference between what the at-fault driver’s liability insurance covers and the amount of damages you receive – up to your policy’s limits. Because most drivers in Tennessee carry only minimum amounts of liability coverage, UIM coverage can be highly important for accident victims and their families.

What types of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage exist?

Specific options for uninsured motorist coverage vary by state and by the insurer. Generally speaking, drivers carry one or more of the following types of coverage:

  • Uninsured motorist (UM) insurance – This coverage will pay your medical bills (and your passengers’ medical bills) if you get involved in an accident that is the fault of an uninsured motorist. Additionally, uninsured motorist coverage will reimburse you and your passengers for any wages lost due to injuries or the loss of earning capacity. You can also turn to UM coverage if you are in a hit-and-run accident or struck by an uninsured motorist while you are walking or biking.
  • Underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance – This insurance protects you and your passengers when the at-fault driver has liability insurance but not enough coverage to cover the full extent of your damages. UIM basically covers the “shortfall” between the at-fault driver’s insurance and your total losses – up to your policy limits.
  • Uninsured motorist property damage insurance – While UM insurance covers bodily injuries, UM benefits typically do not cover damage to your car or other personal property. For this reason, you should consider carrying UMP property damage insurance. However, make sure to read your insurance policy closely. The UM coverage you purchase may not cover property damage beyond your vehicle, or it may not apply to hit-and-run crashes.

Am I required to have Uninsured or Underinsured motorist coverage in Tennessee?

Do I need uninsured motorist coverage? Tennessee does not require drivers to have UM or UIM coverage. However, insurance companies that sell auto liability insurance must at least offer UM/UIM coverage to drivers in amounts equal to bodily injury and property damage coverage in the liability policy. So, if you buy liability coverage in the minimum required amounts — $25,000 bodily injury per person/$50,000 bodily injury per accident/ $15,000 property damage per accident — the insurance company should offer you the same amount of UM/UIM coverage. If you do not want UM/UIM coverage, you must reject it in writing. Typically, you must sign or initial a form to reject the coverage. Often, Memphis drivers get into accidents without realizing they have UM/UIM coverage.

Do all states require licensed drivers to purchase auto insurance?

Tennessee is one of 49 states (or every state except New Hampshire) that require drivers to carry auto liability insurance before they can legally drive a motor vehicle. However, the type of insurance and the amount of coverage that each state requires varies greatly. Unlike many states, Tennessee does not require drivers to carry “no-fault” insurance. This insurance pays damages regardless of who is at fault. So, if you are involved in a crash in our state, your only option is to file a claim through the at-fault driver’s liability insurance. One of our knowledgeable underinsured motorist attorneys in Memphis could help you understand your options through this process.

In an effort to get more drivers to buy required liability insurance, Tennessee enacted a law in 2015 increasing the financial penalty that drivers face if they lack proof of insurance. The minimum fine went from $100 to $300. Drivers can also be charged with a Class A misdemeanor if they provide false proof of insurance.

Are there many uninsured motorists in Tennessee?

Unfortunately, several sources indicate that too many drivers lack required liability insurance in Tennessee. A study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) found that 20.1 percent of motorists in our state lack insurance – in other words, one out of every five drivers on the road. Tennessee’s uninsured motorist rate greatly exceeded the national rate of 12.6 percent. One news report estimated that 660,000 drivers in our state are uninsured – even though the average cost of the insurance is only $630 per year.

Do I need to worry about drivers who have auto liability insurance in Tennessee being underinsured?

Your medical expenses after a car accident will depend on the severity of your injuries and how well you respond to treatment. However, in many cases, the cost of treatment will exceed the $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident minimum liability limits that Tennessee law requires. Consider the following: The federal government’s website reports that the average cost of a three-day hospital stay is around $30,000, and that fixing a broken leg can cost up to $7,500.

The Tennessee Hospital Association points out that longer hospital stays are likely to result in higher charges. Some patients, especially severely injured patients, may not respond as well to treatment or surgery. So, they may have to stay in the hospital longer. Other factors, such as multiple injuries that require more services, will also result in longer hospital stays.

The National Spinal Cord Injury Center says that the average stay in a hospital acute care unit for a spinal cord injury is 11 days, and the length of stay for rehabilitation is 35 days. Additionally, about 30 percent of patients with a spinal cord injury are rehospitalized one or more times during any given year following the injury. Among those rehospitalized, the length of hospital stays average about 22 days. A Memphis underinsured motorist attorney  could help you calculate your damages.

How Can a Memphis Underinsured Motorist Attorney Help Me?

If you were seriously injured or you have lost a loved one in a car accident caused by an uninsured/underinsured motorist or a hit-and-run driver, the benefits available through your UM/UIM coverage should provide compensation to you. However, you cannot count on your insurance company to inform you of all the compensation you may be due or to pay it. Many Memphis residents do not even realize they have uninsured/underinsured coverage, and insurance companies have no legal obligation to advise policyholders of existing coverage. An adjuster from a for-profit insurance company, meanwhile, has every incentive to settle a claim for as little as possible.

Hiring an underinsured motorist lawyer could significantly improve your chances of being able to recover fair compensation (including for property damage) through your own insurance coverage. For instance, at the Law Office of David E. Gordon in Memphis, we fully investigate car accident claims, including locating all insurance policies applicable to the accident and our client’s losses.

In your case, we will work hard to pursue maximum financial compensation under the terms of your auto insurance coverage, as well as through liability coverage that the driver who caused your crash may carry.

If you have been in a car accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, we urge you to find out more about your legal rights and how to seek full and fair compensation for damages you have suffered. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

The Law Offices of David E. Gordon

The Law Offices of David E. Gordon