What To Do If You’re In a Car Accident Without Insurance But Not At Fault In Tennessee

You may be eligible to collect damages if you’re in an accident without insurance in Tennessee, but you’ll face penalties for driving uninsured.
Written by John Davis
Edited by Amy Bobinger
The consequences can be harsh if you're in a
car accident without insurance
. You can file a claim with the other driver's insurance company if you're not at fault. That said, you may be ineligible to collect non-economic damages—and you'll probably face severe penalties for driving without insurance. 
  • You may be eligible for compensation if you're in an accident without insurance—but you'll face penalties for driving uninsured.
  • Remember to get the other driver's information after an accident.
  • Collect evidence to prove your innocence. 
  • Driving without insurance is a Class C misdemeanor in Tennessee.
  • To avoid future violations, compare rates to find the best insurance coverage.
Driving without auto insurance is a Class C misdemeanor in the state of Tennessee—and if you get into a car accident, you could face some severe legal consequences. 
Here's what you should do if you're in an accident in Tennessee with no insurance:
It might go without saying, but under no circumstance should you
leave the scene of a collision
While there will be legal consequences if you don't have valid insurance coverage, you can be charged with a serious offense in Tennessee if you leave the scene of an accident—regardless of who's at fault. In addition to a license suspension, penalties could also include the following:
  • $50 fine and up to 30 months in jail if the accident includes property damage
  • $2,500 fine and up to 11 months and 29 days in jail if the accident includes bodily injuries
  • Felony
    charge and additional prison time if the accident includes a death
It's best to remain calm and stay at the scene if you're involved in an accident without car insurance. 
Once you’ve pulled over to a safe spot, follow these steps:
  • Check to see if your passengers or anyone else involved are injured.
  • Call 911 if necessary.
  • Exchange information with the other driver, including your driver's license number.
  • Document the accident! Take plenty of photos and gather any evidence you can to help prove your innocence if you aren't at fault. 
Keep in mind: If you're uninsured and aren't at fault, you can still file a third-party claim with the at-fault driver's insurance provider for any resulting vehicle repairs or medical bills. If the at-fault driver is uninsured, you have the option to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover any losses, including lost wages, repairs, and medical bills. 

Who decides fault in a car accident in Tennessee?

As in most cases, the insurance company decides who is ultimately at fault for an accident. 
If you're uninsured and not at fault, you'll need to show proof that the other driver is at fault when you file a claim with their insurance company. Take as many photographs as possible to demonstrate that you're not financially responsible for the at-fault driver's expenses. 

Do you need to report a car accident in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, you are not required to report a car accident unless the crash results in personal injuries, deaths, or property damage exceeding $400. However, you still can't leave the scene of an accident.

What if you’re at fault?

If you’re uninsured and at fault—the legal consequences may become dire very quickly. 
Because Tennessee is a
modified-comparative negligence state
, you’ll be financially responsible for your portion of the other driver’s damages if you’re found 50% or more at fault for the accident. If you don’t have insurance, the not-at-fault driver can file a lawsuit against you to recover these damages. 
Keep in mind: Driving without insurance is a Class C misdemeanor in the state of Tennessee. Legal penalties can include a $300 fine and a suspension of your license and car registration until you provide proof of insurance. The police can even tow your vehicle to the impound lot! 

What if you're hit by an uninsured driver in Tennessee?

If you get into an accident and the other driver doesn't have insurance in Tennessee, you are entitled to claim damages for repairs and medical expenses. Unfortunately, it could be a long and lengthy process for all involved. 
However, there are additional forms of insurance that can help you avoid the headache that comes when dealing with an uninsured driver. Tennessee law requires insurance companies to offer
uninsured motorist coverage
and underinsured motorist coverage—commonly referred to as UM/UIM.
If you get into a collision with an uninsured driver or a motorist that lacks enough
bodily injury liability
coverage, then UM/UIM insurance will help cover your medical expenses. 
Tennessee is also one of the few states that offer uninsured motorist property damage coverage (UMPD). With this coverage, your vehicle's repair expenses will be covered if you get into an accident with a driver who lacks sufficient liability insurance or coverage entirely. 
Medical payments (MedPay)
is another coverage option that will help pay for your hospital bills through your own car insurance depending on the policy limits. If you have
collision coverage
, then your vehicle will be covered for repairs once you file a claim with your insurance company.
Quick fact: Tennessee is ranked as the third worst state for uninsured drivers. That's right—nearly 24% of drivers in the Volunteer State are uninsured, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). With this in mind, it might be worth protecting yourself with UIM and collision insurance if possible.

Penalties for driving without insurance in Tennessee

Even though you can claim damages after an accident without insurance coverage when you're not at fault, the penalties for uninsured drivers in Tennessee are still severe. 
Driving without insurance is a Class C misdemeanor in the state of Tennessee. Legal penalties can include:
  • License suspension
  • Fines up to $300
  • Car towing  
Important note: If you’re caught driving without insurance, the Tennessee Department of Revenue will send you a notice to verify your insurance status, allowing 30 days for a response. Failure to respond to the first notice will result in a $25 fee, while a $100 fee will result if you don't respond to the final notice.  
Furthermore, if your driver's license is suspended, you'll also need to pay an additional $65 restoration fee to reinstate your driving privileges and a $50 fee to the commissioner of safety. You may even have to pass another driver's exam to get your license and registration back. 
Your insurance company may have to file an
SR-22 form
on your behalf, as proof of financial responsibility is required after major driving offenses. It will be on file for three years, and you can expect an increase in your premium, as your insurer will consider you a high-risk driver. 
There's no way around these penalties. 
There is one exception: If you in fact had insurance coverage at the time of the accident but didn't have
proof of insurance
with you. If this is the case, you'll need to provide proof of insurance to the Tennessee Department of Revenue within 15 days of your notice and pay a $25 coverage failure fee.

Minimum required car insurance in Tennessee

So how much insurance are you legally required to purchase in Tennessee, anyway? 
According to state law, drivers in Tennessee must carry a minimum insurance policy with the following:
Even with the minimum required insurance, there's a good chance that the other driver won't have enough coverage to pay for your damages. 
Pro tip: Many experts suggest purchasing higher limits of $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident for bodily injury liability, and $100,000 for property damage liability to avoid the financial risk associated with severe accidents.
Full coverage
, on the other hand, is a great option that includes
collision coverage
comprehensive coverage
and will protect your vehicle from a number of unexpected incidents. 

Driving without insurance can increase premiums

If you're caught
driving without car insurance
in Tennessee, prepare yourself for steeper insurance costs. 
Serious violations such as driving without insurance are included on your driving record and can easily send your premium through the roof. 

How to find cheap car insurance in Tennessee

Have you avoided meeting Tennessee's car insurance requirement due to cost concerns? We understand—
car insurance
can be pricey.
But you'll run into more financial trouble if you get caught driving without at least the minimum liability insurance. And thankfully,
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Just download the app and sign up to unlock multiple quotes from some of the nation’s top insurance companies. Once you find a policy that works for your budget, Jerry's team will handle the rest—from paperwork to phone calls. And, as a bonus, we'll even help you cancel your old policy! 
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