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DRIVERS BEWARE: Insurance priceless in event of accident: 1 in 4 not carrying coverage in state

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By BRUCE D. FOX

It is true that the law requires all drivers to have a certain amount of insurance coverage to pay for harms and injuries they cause in an accident.  In Tennessee, the law says we all have to have a minimum of $25,000 per person injured, up to $50,000 per accident. Unfortunately, not everyone has insurance.  
According to the latest figures from the Insurance Research Institute, 24 percent of Tennessee drivers have no insurance.  
That’s 1 in 4 people driving uninsured. Tennessee law has no verification process  to make sure drivers keep their insurance. Often, the only time law enforcement checks for insurance coverage is after an accident has already occurred.  
Most Tennesseans only have the state minimum of $25,000 per person. I know from experience that one trip to the hospital with some X-rays or an MRI, a round of physical therapy and a little time off from work often adds up to at least that much.  So, how can you make certain that, if you are in an accident, you have coverage for all of your harms and injuries, such as emergency room visits, expensive surgeries, months away from work, and the stress and worry caused by the injuries?  Most of the time, you will have to look to your own insurance coverage.  
Tennessee law requires that every auto insurance policy has to provide uninsured/underinsured insurance coverage up to the limits of the driver’s own liability policy. For example, if a driver has $100,000 in insurance coverage, he or she will also have $100,000 in uninsured/underinsured coverage as well. Sometimes, an insurance company will tell you that you can save a little money if you waive this coverage.  
Don’t do it!  
The pennies saved are little comfort if you or a family member is put in a hospital by the negligence of somebody driving without insurance or without enough to pay the bills. Also, don’t believe stories that your insurance company will cancel your policy or raise your rates if you try to rely on this coverage. Tennessee law forbids this, and insurance companies are subject to serious penalties if they try it.  
So, what does uninsured/underinsured coverage do?  
Consider our driver above who has a $100,000 insurance policy. Let’s call him Fred. What if somebody driving with no insurance or the state minimum of $25,000 runs a red light while texting on his phone and hits Fred?  
What if Fred ends up in the hospital with medical bills of $30,000 and he loses another $15,000 because he can’t work?  
Because Fred has planned well, he has $100,000 in insurance coverage to rely on to pay for those harms and injuries.  What would happen if Fred didn’t have uninsured motorist insurance?  
He’d have to try and get that money directly from the driver who hit him. This is often difficult if not impossible.  All the negligent driver has to do is file for bankruptcy and the debt gets cleared.  
Do not rely on other drivers to protect you and your family if you are injured in a car wreck. Make sure you have enough insurance in place to protect yourself. I recommend a minimum of $100,000 uninsured motorist coverage. Call your agent today and find out how much coverage you have on your auto policy. It is the only way to be certain you and your family will be able to recover when the unexpected happens.    
Bruce D. Fox is an associate with Fox & Farley Attorneys at Law in East Tennessee. He writes about legal advice. This is his debut column in the LaFollette Press. His columns will appear monthly in The Press.