uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage in Tennessee

Are You an Un/Underinsured Motorist?

It’s never easy discussing difficult topics with clients. Many clients think you share a story to “sell them something.” The need for sharing examples of the risks of what can happen with my clients hit very close to home this summer as one of my nephews was involved in an auto accident. It was his fault, but thank the Good Lord, he was not on his phone. He was simply an inexperienced driver who made a mistake. Think that ever happens?

Liability limits are so important to protect your assets, but they are also important to protect your lifestyle should you be hit by someone who is not insured or does not have enough insurance to cover your damages. Uninsured or underinsured limits are used when the at fault party does not have coverage or does not have enough coverage to make you whole (and sometimes you will never be made completely whole). I’ve known of two accidents in the last year that were rear-end collisions with catastrophic consequences. One resulted in the fatality of one spouse and the other spouse hospitalized for three months in a coma. The other resulted in a paralysis from the chest down. What would it do to your life if these scenarios happened to you? Could you take three months away from work without major consequences? What if you could NOT go back to work? What would that do to your family? Would a Go-fund-me be the result?

Imagine this scenario, you are stopped waiting to make a turn and another driver hits you while going 60 miles an hour? You may be lucky and walk away, and you may die or be paralyzed? Whose responsibility is it to make your life or the life of your loved ones livable if you die?  People want to blame other people, (I think it is the American way now) but you can be responsible and have enough insurance to handle either situation. If this scenario occurred, you could have enough un/underinsured coverage to cover your future earnings and medical bills. Yes, you will pay more, but what happens to your lifestyle and those of your loved ones if you do not have enough coverage? The sad part of this equation is that the difference in premium from bare bones state minimums of $25,000 to highest (in most cases) of $500,000 per person is usually less than $25 a month? What a $25 well spent!

Let’s look at the odds for un/underinsured motorist accidents closely. According to the Insurance Institute of America, the Top 10 highest states by estimated percentage of uninsured motorists from 2015 ranks as follows:

RankingStatePercentage Uninsured
1Florida26.7%
2Mississippi23.7%
3New Mexico20.8 %
4Michigan20.3 %
5Tennessee20.0
6Alabama18.4%
7Washington  17.4%
8Indiana16.7%
9Arkansas16.6%
10Washington DC15.6 %

Note that in Tennessee this is 1 in 5 drivers! Count how many uninsured cars you pass on your way home. If you are curious about your states’ percentage of uninsured motorists, visit the Insurance Information Institute  to learn more.

These statistics are scary but what makes it even worse is the percentage of drivers who have the legal state minimum limits of $25,000/$50,000/$15,000. If you are paralyzed or even hospitalized for three months, how far do you think $25,000 will go? The other party’s insurance company will gladly write that $25,000 check and walk away from you with no other responsibility! I see this too frequently. If you are to be protected, it is up to you! This is a situation where you can protect yourself and not rely on another party to protect you. Without underinsured motorist coverage, you are solely responsible for paying medical bills and other expenses that exceed the policy limits of the at fault party that hit you.

Having sufficient uninsured motorist insurance can keep you from paying out money for accidents that you don’t cause. Expenses can include:

  • Lost wages
  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Damages to your automobile

A few years ago I insured a client who came to my agency with state minimums of $25,000/$50,000. I convinced him to at least double his coverage to $50,000/$100,000/$50,000. Two months later, his son was driving and was hit directly on the driver’s side by a tire from an uninsured motorist’s automobile. It is miraculous that my client’s son lived and walked away from the accident. He lost several teeth and needed cosmetic surgery. Without the increased limits my client agreed to, the money would not have been available to repair his teeth and face. Instead of permanent damage, the son recovered fully from this accident. This is an example of the benefits of higher limits for uninsured/underinsured motorist.

Life is not fair and having to pay for an accident that is not your fault is not fair, but being properly protected can make the consequences of this situation much more tolerable.

I have so many clients tell me, “I’m a good driver and won’t have an accident.” You may be a good driver, but you may not be able to avoid an uninsured bad driver on the road. Many drivers do not have insurance because their driving records are terrible, and they say they cannot afford to pay for insurance.

The State of Tennessee has implemented a program to verify insurance for drivers. This may reduce the number of uninsured drivers, but uninsured drivers will always be present on the roads. The question remains, will you be responsible enough to protect yourself and your loved ones from uninsured and underinsured drivers?