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What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage And Do I Need It?


If you are in a car accident and the person who is responsible for the accident is not insured or doesn’t have enough insurance, you may think you’re out of luck. You don’t get to choose who causes an accident that injures you. If that person is not insured, what do you do?

Uninsured Motorist Insurance

To prepare for this scenario, Tennessee allows you to purchase what is known as uninsured motorist (UM) insurance. Uninsured motorist insurance will “stand in the shoes” of someone who injures you and who is not insured. It also will stand in the shoes of a phantom driver.

Assume for example that you are the victim of a hit and run, or that someone leaves a large piece of debris on the road, but you don’t know who did it. Not only is there potentially no insured in either scenario but there’s no defendant who can be found for you to sue.

In these situations, your UM coverage will “pretend” that it is the phantom driver, defend the phantom driver, and pay whatever settlement or verdict the unknown phantom driver is eventually instructed to pay. Your UM gives you someone that can be held responsible for paying damages when you otherwise would have nobody.

This may seem odd, because your own insurance is fighting against you. You may wonder why, if it’s your insurance, they are fighting so hard against you. But your insurance is doing what it’s supposed to–pretending they are the other side, and acting as a pot of recovery that you otherwise couldn’t obtain.

Underinsured Drivers

Your UM isn’t just for phantom drivers, or unknown drivers. It’s also for drivers that don’t have enough insurance.

Let’s pretend that a driver causes an accident but the driver only has $25,000 in insurance coverage. But you are severely injured–by all accounts, the value of your injury may well be above $25,000. How do you get the excess amounts?

The answer is by suing your UM carrier, along with the actual wrongdoer. Your attorney will have to put your UM carrier on notice and sue them, which means your injury attorney needs to have some idea in advance that the value of your injury is likely to exceed the liability policy that the other side has.

If ultimately you settle your case for $100,000 or a jury finds your injury is worth $100,000, the wrongdoer would pay the $25,000 limit on your policy, but your UM carrier would pay the excess $90,000 (unless the limits of your UM policy are less).

Get The Right Insurance

UM insurance is not required in Tennessee, so if you want it you’ll have to get it when you get your car insurance policy. UM limits must be equal to the limits in your liability policy. UM also doesn’t cover anything related to property damage.

We can help you make sure that you sue the right parties, and help you navigate complex insurance issues after an accident.  Call the Clinton personal injury attorneys at Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, for help.

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