Auto Insurance Requirements in Tennessee

Auto Insurance Requirements in Tennessee

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In Tennessee, all drivers must have some form of financial responsibility in order to drive.

The most common way to meet the requirement is carrying car insurance with at least the minimum coverage limits: $25,000 for bodily injury liability per person and $50,000 per accident, along with $15,000 for property damage. But Tennessee drivers may instead satisfy the law by either filing a cash deposit or a surety bond with the state.

You'll also need to carry proof of coverage — such as an insurance ID card or a copy of your policy's declaration page — anytime you drive. If you're caught driving without insurance, you may need to pay a fine or surrender your driver's license.

Tennessee car insurance minimum requirements

You'll know you've satisfied the minimum insurance requirements in Tennessee when your policy includes:

Tennessee required car insurance coverage

TN required min. limits

Bodily injury (BI)

$25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident

Property damage (PD)

$15,000 per accident
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Bodily Injury (BI): If you're at fault in a car accident, bodily injury liability insurance pays for the other party's medical bills up to $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. Necessary medical treatments may include ambulance services, surgeries, rehabilitative services and more. However, this is the bare-minimum coverage limit required in Tennessee, and you should consider purchasing more coverage to fully protect your assets. Available limits vary by insurer.

Property damage (PD): If you cause an accident, property damage car insurance pays to repair property damage up to $15,000 per accident. In most cases, this means the other driver's car repair costs, but it can also cover damage to a building or fences, for example. You may want to consider buying higher limits to protect your total assets in case you are sued. Available limits vary by insurer in Tennessee.

Uninsured motorist coverage

Tennessee insurance companies are required to include uninsured motorist coverage in every auto insurance quote.

Nearly 1 out of every 5 claims submitted in Tennessee are due to an uninsured motorist, which makes it the sixth-highest in the United States.

You may choose to reject uninsured/underinsured coverage — as long as it's in writing — but most agents and government officials recommend keeping these coverages. Here's what they do:

Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI): If you're in a car accident with an uninsured driver, uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage pays for your own medical bills — regardless of who's at fault. It also covers you if the driver has insurance but the liability portion falls short of your BI limits. But your UMBI limits may never exceed the BI limits on the same policy.

Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD): Tennessee is one of the few states that makes uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) available. This coverage pays for your own car's repair expenses following an accident with a driver who either doesn't have enough liability insurance or lacks coverage altogether. There may be a deductible, typically $200, for each accident before UMPD covers the remaining bill. Some insurers allow you to purchase more coverage, but it cannot be higher than your PD limit.

Alternative proof of financial responsibility

Motorists who don't want to buy car insurance can instead choose an alternative form of financial responsibility. By fulfilling one of the following requirements, the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety (DOS) will issue you a certificate of insurance — which you'll need to show when you register a vehicle or you're pulled over on the road.

Cash/security deposit: Once you deposit $60,000 with the DOS, the commissioner will verify there are no prior unsatisfied judgements against you. Then, they'll issue you proof of coverage. The deposit can be made in either cash or securities, such as government bonds or notes, and it acts as your insurance fund to satisfy future judgements arising from any auto accident you cause.

Surety bond: Filing a copy of a bond that can cover a $60,000 payment with the DOS will fulfill your TN motorist duty. A surety bond is only valid as your proof of financial responsibility when it is issued by a surety company licensed in TN, and when it is valid for at least a year. When you cannot pay for the damage you have caused in an accident, the surety company will pay in your place (then ask you for the money back later).

Mark is a Senior Research Analyst for ValuePenguin focusing on the insurance industry, primarily auto insurance. He previously worked in financial risk management at State Street Corporation.

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