Godwin, Morris, Laurenzi & Bloomfield, P.C.

More compensation intended for injuries from uninsured motorist

Tennessee is one of the states with the highest numbers of uninsured drivers, with 660,000 of them. The penalties here for driving without insurance have been relatively easy-going. However, recent laws in the state point to a change in policy. There appears to be a growing crackdown on motorists caught driving without insurance. One of the main reasons for the change is to alleviate the hardship that occurs when an uninsured, at-fault driver causes serious injury and leaves the victims without compensation.

The hope is to accomplish this by compelling motorists to purchase insurance or suffer the negative consequences. An injured victim can sue the uninsured, at-fault motorist in a private civil complaint, but in general, it is very difficult to collect on a civil judgment for money damages where there is no insurance. The  judgment entered in the civil action can lead to a long-term license suspension in many states, preventing the person from driving until the judgment is paid. That strategy, however, is thwarted by the judgment debtor's filing of a bankruptcy, which requires reinstatement of the driver's license in many instances.

The recent changes to the law in Tennessee do provide for a license suspension in some situations. They also include a triple-fold increase in the fine for uninsured driving, and they authorize the towing of the person's vehicle if proof of insurance is not provided. Additionally, a statewide database will be established to detect uninsured drivers. These measures are moving in the right direction, but they may take a long time to implement in a state that has allowed uninsured drivers to get a foothold.

In the meantime, there are some other measures that help drivers who want maximum compensation if they are injured. Under Tennessee law, they must purchase uninsured and underinsured motorists' coverage on their own policy in an amount equivalent to their liability coverage. If possible, however, motorists should investigate increasing the limits of the underinsured/uninsured motorists' coverage. Sometimes, only a small additional premium may translate into a much greater amount of these coverage than expected.

Source: knoxnews.com, "Editorial: Cracking down on uninsured drivers sensible", Jan. 15, 2016

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