How does my uninsured motorist policy really work after an accident?
Does your car insurance plan have “uninsured motorist” coverage? Do you know how this type of coverage works in Tennessee? You might be surprised to learn how it works!
When you find yourself hit by an uninsured driver, or a driver without enough insurance to pay your claim, you may feel relieved when you remember you have been paying monthly premiums for UM coverage. After all, you assume that you pay those premiums to protect yourself in a situation like this, right?
Imagine you are sitting at trial and one of the lawyers going against you and representing the defendant is employed by your own insurance company! There is more. The jury never gets to know that lawyer really represents your insurance company. Tennessee law allows your insurance carrier to legally defend the uninsured party when they are at fault. According to Tenn. Code Ann. § 56-7-1206: “The company shall thereafter have the right to file pleadings and take other action allowable by law in the name of the owner and operator of the uninsured motor vehicle or in its own name; provided, that nothing in this subsection (a) shall prevent the owner or operator from employing counsel of the owner’s own choice; and provided, further, that the evidence of service upon the insurance carrier shall not be made a part of the record.” This means your insurance company’s attorney defends the driver that hits you. They get to argue you were at fault in the crash or you had pre-existing conditions that prevent you a recovery. Your own insurance company works hard to keep you from getting your money after the crash.
Furthermore, since Tennessee is an anti-stacking state, your UM coverage does not “stack” on top of the insurance limits for the at-fault driver. Your insurance company gets a credit for every dollar paid by the at-fault party’s insurance company. for the additional vehicle in this event: ” Tenn. Code Ann. § 56-7-1206(k) says, “The uninsured motorist insurance carrier shall be entitled to credit for the total amount of damages collected by the insured from all parties alleged to be liable for the bodily injury or death of the insured whether obtained by settlement or judgment and whether characterized as compensatory or punitive damages.”
UM coverage is very important and everyone should have it. But they don’t just pay you without a fight. Bottom line: You pay the premiums on your car insurance plan to protect yourself, but UM coverage allows your insurance carrier to defend the bad guy and fight you to keep you from getting the money in your policy to pay for your injuries. This is one reason Tennessee is considered an insurance-friendly state!