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Knoxville Uninsured Driver Accident Attorneys

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Were you hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver in Knox County or East Tennessee?

One in 5 motorists in Tennessee drive without insurance, despite car insurance laws. Our award-winning law firm has represented Tennessee families for over 40 years.

Meeting the minimum auto insurance requirements isn't voluntary in the Volunteer State, but unfortunately, Tennessee's mandatory insurance requirements are far too often ignored by drivers. When an uninsured or underinsured individual causes a serious motor vehicle accident, the legal consequences can be severe and the accident victim may have little recourse for obtaining compensation.

According to the Insurance Research Council, Tennessee ranked as the 5th highest state in the nation by an estimated percentage of uninsured drivers in 2015. That year, approximately 1 in 5 motorists in the state weren't insured. Such a high rate of uninsured motorists is despite the fact that the penalties for driving without insurance were enhanced by state lawmakers in 2017.

What's more, of the drivers who do carry liability insurance, a vast majority (80% by some estimates) only have the minimum coverage required by Tennessee law.

Often, this minimum limit isn't even close to fully compensating accident victims in the event of a severe injury or multiple-vehicle crash.

If you or a loved one were involved in a serious crash with an uninsured or underinsured driver, you might be understandably feeling confused, angry and scared. You are probably wondering who will pay the bills piling up in the aftermath of the crash and your resulting injuries. Dealing with insurance companies can be frustrating, and understanding your rights can be confusing.

At Gilreath & Associates, our attorneys have successfully secured substantial sums in settlements and litigation for car accident victims throughout Knoxville and East Tennessee for over 40 years. We serve people across the state and have offices in Nashville and Memphis, but our Knoxville office is our largest and longest-serving office.

If an uninsured driver seriously injured you or a loved one, find out how to get compensation for your loss.

Contact our Knoxville accident lawyers to discuss your legal options and seek justice in your case.

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From Sid Gilreath: Don't be Afraid to File Claims against Uninsured Drivers

Many insured drivers, when involved in a personal injury accident with an uninsured party, are afraid to file a claim for fear of increased insurance premiums or rates. Luckily, under Tennessee law, this cannot happen.

State statute Tennessee Code Annotated section 56-7-1201(f) states the following:

"No insurer (insurance company) shall increase the automobile insurance rate or premium of an insured with uninsured motorist coverage nor cancel the coverage due solely to the payment of any claim under uninsured motorist coverage."

In short, insurance companies are not allowed under law to raise your rates or premiums simply because you take advantage of the compensation that may be available to you during an accident with an uninsured motorist.

To quote our own Sid Gilreath, founder of Gilreath & Associates, "Most people are under the impression that if they make a claim for uninsured motorist benefits, that their insurance company will raise their rates or premiums. This is a myth and cannot happen."

Insured drivers involved in accidents with uninsured drivers must "notify [their] own insurance company, so as not to waive benefits for medical payments and uninsured motorist coverage" and not be afraid to reap the assistance available to them.

Tennessee Car Insurance Laws

Auto insurance laws vary from state to state. Tennessee requires 25/50/15 coverage when it comes to liability insurance for bodily injury and property damage. This means that Tennessee drivers must have a minimum coverage of:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury to an individual
  • $50,000 for bodily injury to all persons injured per accident
  • $15,000 for property damage

In an effort to lower the disturbingly high rates of uninsured drivers in Tennessee, lawmakers in recent years have enhanced the penalties for driving uninsured or underinsured. Uninsured motorists now face steep fines (up to $2,500), possible jail time (up to 1 year), increased insurance rates, and be forced to surrender their driver's license and vehicle registration.

But without a doubt, the biggest consequence of driving uninsured is that a person can be held personally liable for the damages and injuries that result from a car accident they cause. In such cases, the uninsured or underinsured individual may be forced to pay out-of-pocket for the crash victim's medical expenses, lost wages, property damage and other expenses.

Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have enacted mandatory requirements for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, but Tennessee is not among those states. Therefore, unless you choose to opt into UM/UIM coverage voluntarily, you may not be covered by your own insurance policy following a wreck with an uninsured driver (or in the event of a hit and run).

While uninsured motorist coverage protects you against drivers without any auto insurance, underinsured motorist coverage can help fill in the gaps when the at-fault driver's policy limits aren't enough to cover your costs from a serious accident. For example, if you suffer a serious head injury, your medical costs can easily surpass the $25,000 mandatory minimum set by Tennessee car insurance laws. In this case, your UIM policy would kick in to help pay for damages beyond the $25,000 covered by the other driver's policy.

Even though UM/UIM coverage is not required in Tennessee, we highly recommend that you consider obtaining this optional insurance in order to protect you and your family—especially considering the high rate of uninsured drivers in the state.

uninsured driver car accident

Every state has a law requiring drivers to be covered with a minimum amount of liability insurance. The minimum amount varies from state to state, so let's take a look at what this minimum coverage law could mean to you and your family.

Legal Options for Compensation Following a Car Accident

Tennessee is an at-fault state, meaning that in normal circumstances where both drivers are insured, the accident victim would pursue financial damages for medical bills, property damage and lost wages through the at-fault driver's insurance company by filing a claim.

However, if the at-fault driver doesn't have insurance (or they don't have enough insurance coverage to fully pay for all of your expenses), your compensation options become more limited.

For example, let's say you were rear-ended on I-40 in downtown Knoxville. Due to the speed of the vehicle that hit you and the nature of the wreck, you suffer severe whiplash and spinal cord injuries that require extensive surgery and therapy. Your life will never be the same, and your medical bills quickly pile up to over $100,000. Thankfully, the driver who hit you is insured, but they only carry the minimum liability coverage required by state law—which pays $25,000 for your bodily injuries.

Who pays for your remaining $75,000 in medical bills?

In scenarios such as this, you primarily only have 3 options for recovering compensation:

  1. UM/UIM coverage. If you opted into UM/UIM coverage, then you may be able to file a claim with your own insurance company to help pay for your damages from an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. However, since this coverage is optional in Tennessee, many motorists don't elect to carry it. Review your auto insurance policy carefully to determine whether or not you have UM/UIM coverage.
  2. Health insurance. If you don't have UM/UIM coverage and the at-fault driver was uninsured, or if their insurance policy fails to cover your serious injuries and damages, in some cases you may be able to turn to your own health insurance to help cover your medical bills. However, whether or not your health insurance will pay depends on your specific policy, which is why you should consult with a Tennessee car accident lawyer as soon as possible to review your rights.
  3. Personal injury lawsuit. If you've exhausted all forms of compensation through your auto and health insurance, then you may be forced to pursue compensation from the individual directly by filing a personal injury lawsuit. Even if the at-fault driver doesn't have the money to pay for your losses, your attorney can help determine if any other party contributed to the crash and can be held accountable.

Why Do People Drive Uninsured?

With so many uninsured drivers in Tennessee and the consequences of doing so, it may make you wonder why people drive without insurance in the first place. Here are some of the most common reasons:

  • Inexperience. Young and inexperienced drivers may not have been involved in a car accident before, and therefore they may underestimate the costs and consequences of a collision. This lack of experience, feeling of invincibility and willingness to take more risks may cause a young person to overlook the importance of insurance. Unfortunately, this risk-taking and lack of experience also makes them more prone to causing a wreck.
  • Cost. Even though car insurance in Tennessee is relatively cheap compared to the national average, it's an expense that costs each driver hundreds or thousands of dollars each year depending on their driving record, type of vehicle and other factors. When finances are tight, people tend to look for ways to reduce their expenses and insurance is often the first item cut. Of course, in reality, the cost of not having insurance is significantly higher in the long-run since uninsured drivers face fines, loss of their license and may be forced to pay for damages out-of-pocket in the event of a wreck.
  • Calculation. Some drivers incorrectly calculate that it's cheaper to pay a fine for driving without insurance rather than shell out money each month on their insurance premium. However, what these folks don't take into account is the financial cost of losing their license as well as the out-of-pocket expenses they'd have to pay if they cause an accident.
  • Misconception. Many drivers don't really understand how insurance works in Tennessee. Some mistakenly believe that being uninsured only hurts themselves, and that anyone else who is involved in their car accident will be covered by their own insurance. These individuals don't understand that Tennessee is an "at-fault" state, and therefore by not having liability insurance they make it more difficult for anyone they injure to get compensated as well (unless they have UM/UIM coverage). This belief is not only selfish, but misguided.
  • Naivety. Some motorists, particularly young drivers, overestimate their own driving abilities and think that they'll never cause an accident—or perhaps they think they'll never get caught for driving without insurance. They think they can get away with the risk.

Regardless of the reason, what being uninsured ultimately boils down to is negligence. A failure to comply with the minimum insurance requirements set by the state, whether it was intentional or not, is considered negligent behavior and therefore the uninsured driver may be held liable for personal injury damages such as medical bills, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and more.

Car Accidents: Verdicts & Settlements

When choosing a Tennessee personal injury law firm, an attorney's experience and proven results can make a big difference in your case outcome. Our attorneys represented countless individuals injured in catastrophic automobile crashes. Here are just a few examples of compensation recovered for our clients.

How to Prove Fault in an Auto Accident

With such an alarming number of uninsured drivers in Tennessee, motorists need to be prepared in case of an accident. Whether you or the uninsured driver is responsible, there are certain steps that should be followed to protect your rights and ensure that you will be properly compensated for losses and damages.

How Our Knoxville Attorneys Can Help You

Following a serious car or truck wreck, your financial losses can mount up quickly. Emergency medical bills. Ongoing treatment. Lost work wages. Repairing or replacing your car. Emotional distress. It all adds up, and you may be feeling helpless if the at-fault driver isn't adequately insured or doesn't have insurance at all.

One factor that makes uninsured car accident claims more difficult is that often the uninsured driver has few assets and little savings that can be seized to help pay for your damages. In fact, they may not be able to afford car insurance, which is why you are in this mess in the first place. For this reason and many others, it's crucial that you speak with an experienced personal injury attorney near you who knows how to leverage all of the legal options available to you.

At Gilreath & Associates, our experienced Tennessee car accident lawyers are on your side from the first day to the last. We will carefully review all applicable insurance policies to determine what compensation you are entitled to, and we'll pursue litigation against the at-fault driver if necessary. We aren't afraid to go to trial, if necessary. Rest assured that we'll fight to secure the best possible outcome in your case.

Ready to discuss your case?
Contact our Knoxville car accident attorneys today for your free consultation.

Frequently Asked Personal Injury Questions

  • What should I do if I have a car accident in Tennessee or elsewhere?
  • What not to do after a car accident in Tennessee?
  • What should I do after I have left the scene of the car accident?
  • What if the other driver is at fault and has no insurance?
  • Will my policy pay for a rental car if my car is damaged?
  • If my car is totaled, will insurance pay off my car note?
  • What is the meaning of "subrogation" when applied to my automobile insurance?

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Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyers at Gilreath & Associates offer free and personal consultation to help you evaluate your legal options.
Our attorneys are dedicated to helping you recover financially from an injury stemming from someone else's negligence.