Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Tennessee: Do You Need It?

Tennessee doesn’t legally require drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need it.
Written by Sarah Gray
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
doesn’t require drivers to carry
uninsured motorist coverage
—but when nearly 24% of Tennessee drivers are uninsured, why would you decline it?
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Do you need uninsured motorist coverage in Tennessee?

Uninsured motorist coverage is required by law in 20 states, but Tennessee is not among them. So that must mean Tennessee drivers don’t need it, right? Wrong—as one of the highest-ranking states in the nation for uninsured drivers, uninsured motorist coverage is just as important here as basic liability coverage.
In 2021, the
Insurance Information Institute
conducted a study that found that 23.7% of Tennessee motorists choose to drive illegally by opting not to buy minimum liability coverage. Only two states were found to have higher numbers of uninsured motorists than Tennessee.
But why should you care whether another driver chooses to obey
Tennessee car insurance laws
? Because it means you have a one-in-four chance of being in an accident caused by someone who won’t be able to cover your damages. Add to this minimum
liability insurance
requirements that are unlikely to fully cover your medical expenses following an accident, and you have a lot of potential for winding up with massive bills to pay.
That’s why it’s important to include uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage in your auto insurance policy. UM/UIM coverage kicks in to pay for medical bills and expenses if you’re in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
Luckily, even in a state like Tennessee where more drivers choose to carry little or no insurance, UM/UIM coverage still only adds an average of $200 annually to your premium.

How uninsured motorist insurance works in Tennessee

Tennessee’s current minimum liability insurance limits include the following.
Bodily injury liability coverage pays for medical bills, while property damage coverage pays for the other driver’s vehicle repairs if you cause an accident.
This is the only required auto insurance in Tennessee, and, for those who choose to carry coverage at all, this is often the maximum they have. This means if your bills and expenses are higher than the maximum the at-fault driver’s coverage will pay—which will very likely be the case—you’re left responsible for those payments.

What’s available

Now that you know how important uninsured motorist coverage can be in Tennessee, let’s see what types of coverage are available. 
Tennessee uninsured motorist coverage falls into two categories:
  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI): This pays for your medical bills if the at-fault driver is under- or uninsured.
  • Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD): This pays for your car’s repair expenses following an accident with an under- or uninsured driver. UMPD may only be purchased in conjunction with UMBI.
Because it’s so important,
Section 56-7-1201
of the Tennessee Statutes requires all insurance companies operating in the state to offer both categories of UM/UIM coverage. Drivers may choose their limits in both categories, but those limits can never exceed the limits they’ve chosen for their own liability coverages.
collision coverage
is always preferable since it covers damages to your car even if you’re at fault in an accident, UMPD is an excellent option for those who want the added protection against repair costs caused by accidents with uninsured motorists without the greater expense of full collision coverage.
Though UMPD may be able to stand in for some of what collision coverage pays for, UMBI bodily injury coverage is particularly important to have. Your own health insurance may cover the cost of medical bills, but only UMBI will cover things like lost wages or funeral expenses after the at-fault driver’s bodily injury liability coverage is tapped out.

What it covers

UM/UIM coverages in Tennessee pay for bodily injury damages to you and your passengers, and, if selected, personal property damages to your car. This coverage will pay for damages caused by:
  • An uninsured motorist
  • A hit-and-run motorist
  • An insured motorist whose coverage is inadequate to cover your expenses
While Tennessee’s UM/UIM coverage can help cover the costs of vehicle damage associated with an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, its main purpose is to cover medical expenses for you and your passengers. In addition to ER visits and surgical costs, UM/UIM insurance will help cover:
  • Future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Long-term rehabilitative or nursing care
  • Medical devices such as wheelchairs
  • Retrofitting your house to accommodate a disability caused by the accident
  • Services such as yard work or cleaning that you’re no longer able to do
  • Pain and suffering (under certain circumstances) 
  • Funeral expenses
If you’re among those in Tennessee who carry at least minimum liability insurance, getting stuck with piles of repair and medical bills following an accident with someone who’s chosen to break the law by driving uninsured is the last thing you want or need. The small added cost of UIM coverage is almost negligible when set against the benefits it provides. 

How to make a claim 

Filing a UM/UIM claim can be a bit tricky since your insurer is taking the place of the at-fault driver’s provider. This means you have to prove your case to your provider, which is why it’s important to gather and save all of the information associated with your accident. 
Start at the scene by collecting:
  • Contact and insurance information for all involved
  • A full written description of the incident (or an accident report)
  • Photos of the scene and any injuries sustained by you and/or your passengers
  • Medical records and bills
  • Receipts of expenses related to the accident
  • Proof of lost wages, if applicable
You should continue to gather bills and receipts as your claim progresses, but as soon as possible following the accident, you need to contact your insurance company and explain what has happened.

Why it’s a good idea to buy uninsured motorist insurance in Tennessee

We get it. Everything seems to cost more these days, so why should you pay extra for insurance coverage that’s not required by your state minimums? Here are just a few of those reasons.

Up to one in four Tennessee drivers is uninsured

That means you have a relatively strong chance of winding up in an accident with someone who has no means of covering any of your expenses. Plus, since driving uninsured is illegal in Tennessee, an uninsured motorist is more likely to flee to the scene to avoid prosecution, creating
a hit-and-run
situation that leaves you completely uncovered.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, collision coverage,
personal injury protection
(PIP), or
medical payments coverage (MedPay)
are the only things that will allow you to avoid the out-of-pocket expenses that will follow a
Tennessee hit-and-run accident
. That’s why this type of insurance is so important to have. 

$57,000 average cost for post-car-accident hospital expenses

The average cost for a hospital stay following a car accident is $57,000. Remember, Tennessee law only requires drivers to carry $25,000 worth of bodily injury liability coverage for each person. That’s $32,000 unaccounted for that your health insurance will have to cover.
Not only does this mean you’ll be responsible for your deductibles but also for any overages still not covered by your policy. 

Tennessee only requires $15,000 per accident property damage liability coverage

In most cases, $15,000 isn’t enough money to cover the cost of a totaled car. Tennessee’s uninsured motorist property damage coverage allows drivers a less expensive means of protecting themselves from damages caused by uninsured motorists than paying for full collision coverage.

How to save on uninsured motorist coverage in Tennessee

Possibly the best thing about uninsured motorist coverage is that it offers a lot of value for a very little cost. It may be more expensive for those living in places like
, but even in these big cities, you can still find ways to keep your coverage affordable—the best and easiest way is by shopping for coverage with
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