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Why do I need uninsured motorist coverage in Tennessee?


Protect yourself against uninsured or underinsured drivers in Tennessee.

Uninsured motorist coverage is for the loss suffered by an insured person, not the liability incurred by the uninsured motorist. Because of this kind of coverage the insured person will have some form of recovery when other parties do not have insurance. The Uninsured Motorist Coverage Statute, as found in Tennessee Code Annotated T.C.A. § 56-7-1201 et seq., sets the limits of uninsured motorist coverage and it mandates that such coverage be offered. The limits of the uninsured motorist coverage sold must be equal to the bodily injury liability limits stated in the policy.

The contractual relationship between the insured and his uninsured motorist carrier is governed by Tennessee Code Annotated 56-7-1201, et. seq., and the provisions of the Act become a part of every UM policy just as if they were written into the policy itself. The Act states its application is to “[e]very automobile liability policy delivered, issued for delivery or renewed in this state.” Policies covering liability arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of any motor vehicle designed for use primarily on public roads and registered or principally garaged in this state, shall include uninsured motorist coverage, subject to provisions filed with and approved by the commissioner, for the protection of persons insured under the policy who are legally entitled to recover compensatory damages from owners or operators of uninsured motor vehicles because of bodily injury, sickness or disease, including death, resulting from injury, sickness or disease.

For the purpose of uninsured motor vehicle coverage, “uninsured motor vehicle” means:

A motor vehicle whose ownership, maintenance, or use has resulted in the bodily injury, death, or damage to property of an insured, and for which the sum of the limits of liability available to the insured under all valid and collectible insurance policies, bonds, and securities applicable to the bodily injury, death, or damage to property is less than the applicable limits of uninsured motorist coverage provided to the insured under the policy against which the claim is made. The definition of “uninsured motor vehicle” clearly encompasses underinsured motor vehicles as well.

An “uninsured motor vehicle” does not include a motor vehicle:

  1. Insured under the liability coverage of the same policy of which the uninsured motor vehicle coverage is a part;
  2. Owned by, or furnished for the regular use of, the insured or any resident spouse or resident relative in the same household;
  3. Self-insured within the meaning of the Tennessee Financial Responsibility Law, compiled in title 55, chapter 12, or any similar state or federal law;
  4. Designed for use mainly off public roads except while on public roads; or
  5. While located for use as premises.

“Insured” status or being a “covered person” is obtained in one of two ways:

  1. Being a named insured or bearing a special relationship to a named insured, such as “spouse”, “family member”, or “relative, with further requirements in some policies of residing in the same household as the named insured; or
  2. Being an occupant of an “insured vehicle”.

Every insured that purchases uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage must be provided an opportunity to include uninsured motorist property damage coverage, subject to provisions filed with and approved by the commissioner, applicable to losses in excess of two hundred dollars ($200). However, the deductible of two hundred dollars ($200) shall not apply if:

  • (A) The vehicle involved in the accident is insured by the same insurer for both collision and uninsured motorist property damage coverage; and
  • (B) The operator of the other vehicle has been positively identified and is solely at fault.

No insurer is required to offer limits of property damage coverage greater in amount than the property damage liability limits purchased by the insured.

The uninsured motorist (UM) statute provides that any named insured may reject in writing uninsured motorist coverage completely or select lower limits of such coverage. Any document signed by the named insured or legal representative that initially rejects the coverage or selects lower limits will be binding on every insured to which the policy applies, and is presumed to become a part of the policy or contract when issued or delivered. Unless the named insured later requests the coverage in writing, the rejected coverage does not need to be included in or supplemental to any continuation, renewal, reinstatement, or replacement of the policy, or the transfer of vehicles insured under the policy, where the named insured had rejected the coverage in connection with a policy previously issued by the same insurer; provided, that whenever a new application is submitted in connection with any renewal, reinstatement or replacement transaction, it will be treated in the same manner as when a new policy is being issued.

There are many uninsured and underinsured drivers on the roadway despite Tennessee law that requires drivers to have insurance.

UM coverage is important for the protection of drivers from not only those who do not have any insurance, but from those with inadequate insurance. UM coverage also provides coverage for hit-and-runs where certain requirements have been met. Therefore, it is important too for drivers to protect themselves against uninsured and/or underinsured motorists by purchasing UM coverage at the time they purchase their liability policy.

If you are unclear whether you have UM coverage, call your car insurance provider to review your coverage and request coverage if you have rejected or waived it in the past.

Understanding the rules of Insurance can be tricky, but we are here to help. If you need legal assistance, please contact one of the experienced attorneys at Batson Nolan PLC to discuss your case and you will be connected with the right attorney for all your legal needs.