Imagine this: you’re driving along to your destination, when all of a sudden, another driver runs a red light or a stop sign, and crashes into the side of your vehicle. You’ve sustained an injury, and your car is smashed up. You pull over to exchange insurance information, but the other driver has sped away. Or perhaps, after you call your insurance company, you discover that the other driver did not have enough insurance to cover the costs associated with the accident.
In Tennessee, it is estimated that as many as 20% of all drivers are uninsured. This does not mean you cannot make a claim for damages, however. If your policy includes uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage, you may still be able to collect compensation. Your insurance company may not want to pay out, though, and that is where our Nashville injury lawyers come in. At Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, we help injured Tennessee drivers when they have been injured in hit-and-runs, by uninsured or underinsured motorists, and when their claims have been denied. Contact us in Nashville, Hendersonville or Knoxville, and let us get started working on your case.
The basics of insurance coverage in Tennessee
Before you can fully understand UM/UIM coverage, you need to know the basics. Your car insurance policy is made up of different types of coverage. This means that even if you think you have “full coverage” for an accident, you might not be insured for every scenario. In Tennessee, you are required to have two types of insurance: bodily injury liability, and property damage liability.
Bodily injury liability covers any injuries you, your passengers, or the other driver sustains in the collision. If there is a fatality, it will cover that as well. These policies are split in two: X amount for injuries to one person, and X amount to cover injuries to all people, per accident. Under the law, you are required to carry $25,000/$50,000 (known as 25/50) in bodily injury liability insurance.
Property damage liability covers the costs of damage to the vehicle(s) or other property. In Tennessee, you are required to carry $15,000 in property damage liability.
What is uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage?
UM/UIM coverage is a supplemental type of auto insurance coverage that helps protect you in case you are hit by a driver whose policy will not cover your injuries or property damage, or who does not have any insurance. Most UM/UIM policies are equal to whatever liability coverage you have. Therefore, if you have a 25/50 split for your bodily injury, you will have 25/50 for your UM/UIM.
However – and this is important – Tennessee law allows you to waive your right UM/UIM coverage. It also allows you (as long as it is in writing) to lower those limits. This means if you are the victim of a hit-and-run, and you sustain injuries where the costs are in excess of your policy, you could get stuck with the bill.
Never opt out of UM/UIM; here’s why:
In order to get you to sign for an auto insurance policy, some shady insurance representatives will actually encourage you to opt out of UM/UIM coverage to get your rate a few dollars lower than their competitors. Many times, potential customers will take that deal without understanding the implications and unknowingly throw themselves under the bus for a couple bucks less a month. Opting out of UM/UIM can compromise your future or your family’s future in the event of a wreck.
What does UM/UIM insurance cover?
If you purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, you and all of your family members are covered by the policy (as long as those family members live in your household). This policy helps cover the costs associated with:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning potential
- Pain and suffering
Why do I need UM/UIM insurance coverage?
Think about it. If you are in a catastrophic car crash and end up with a traumatic brain injury, the average cost of a hospital stay is more than $19,000. That doesn’t include any additional injuries you may have sustained, or any medications or additional therapies you may need after you are released. The truth is, $25,000 simply isn’t enough insurance to cover the costs associated with car crash injuries.
Purchasing higher policy limits with adequate UM/UIM insurance coverage is even more important when you’re a Tennessee driver because one out of every 5 drivers here is uninsured.
How much insurance do I need?
Here’s the good news: Beefing up your auto insurance policy doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. For example, doubling your coverage doesn’t double the cost of the policy. It may only go up a few dollars per month. So while you’ll pay more money for more robust coverage, it may not be quite as much as you’d anticipate and well worth the extra spend and peace of mind.
How much insurance you need will depend on a lot of factors, but we recommend buying at least $100,000/$300,000 (100/300) for your bodily injury insurance, and $25,000 in property damage liability and up to as much coverage as you can possibly purchase.
Where to start
Review your insurance policy line by line, make a list of questions for your insurance agent and before getting off the phone, adding to a current policy or signing up for a new policy, make sure that you understand exactly what each term and number means for you and your coverage.
Just because the other driver didn’t have enough coverage doesn’t mean you can’t make a claim for compensation. At Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, we help car accident victims every day. Let our Gladiators in Suits fight for the future you deserve. Please call 615-425-2500 or complete our contact form, and set up an appointment at one or our offices in Nashville, Hendersonville, or Knoxville. We proudly represent clients throughout the state.