New Tennessee Uninsured Motorist Legislation Does Little to Help Consumers

The Tennessee Legislature is trying to get tougher with uninsured motorists in our State, which currently ranks sixth in the nation for the number of uninsured drivers. The proposed bill would triple the fines for failing to have insurance (from $100 to $300). If a driver could not provide proof of insurance, the bill provides for the car to be towed and the tags be seized. In addition to the increased fines, once the insurance was obtained, the driver would also have to pay reinstatement fees.

Unfortunately, this legislation is not enough to protect you. Increased fines are unlikely to deter uninsured drivers from getting on the roadways. Most people who drive uninsured do so because they simply do not have the funds to purchase auto insurance.  Their monthly budgets just cannot be stretched to include it. Then they should not be driving, you may say. I understand that, but when you live too far away to walk to your job and other basic services (doctor, grocery store, pharmacy, etc.) then most folks will cross their fingers, get in their car and hope for the best.  They are gambling they won’t be caught and won’t be in a wreck

But for argument sake, let’s assume this legislation will cause uninsured drivers to get insurance. The reality is that the State’s minimum limits are simply too little to provide adequate compensation to those injured and damaged in moderate to severe accidents. The State’s financial responsibility law, T.C.A. 55-12-102(12), mandates Tennessee drivers have $25,000/$50,000 auto insurance coverage.   If you and your family are hit by a driver with only minimum limits, the maximum their insurance carrier has to pay is $25,000.00 for one person and $50,000 for everyone hurt in the accident. For example, if you are driving by yourself and are hit by a driver with minimum limits and you sustain a broken back that requires surgery and leaves you unable to work for 6 months, the maximum amount you can recover from the at-fault driver’s insurance company is $25,000.   Now let’s assume you are riding with your family (wife and three kids), and you are involved in an accident with a driver who only has minimum limits, the maximum amount all of you combined can recover, regardless of the extent of your injuries, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, scarring, etc. is $50,000.   Now do you see what I mean when I say the new legislation does not go far enough?  

So what can you do to protect you and your family? Purchase uninsured/underinsured (UN/UIM) motorist coverage.   UN/UIM coverage will compensate you for any injuries or damages caused by an uninsured driver. It will also protect you if you are involved in an accident with a driver who has insufficient coverage to compensate you for all your losses. For example, let’s say you have $1 million dollars in UN/UIM coverage and you are hit by a driver with minimum limits who leaves you totally and completely disabled from your $75K job and saddled with medical bills, your UN/UIM coverage would pay for all of the losses up to $1 million dollars that were over and above the at-fault driver’s minimum limits.

You would be surprised how inexpensive this coverage is.  I renewed my auto insurance and the $1,000,000 uninsured motorist coverage was $113.  Now, I am not saying that $113 is not a lot of money.  Of course it is.  But relatively speaking it is not inexpensive and spending this money provides protection for the occupants of my vehicle, usually my family.

Ask your insurance agent what it would cost to purchase additional uninsured motorist coverage.  And then make a decision about what amount to purchase based on your household budget. 

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