Being involved in a car accident can be a scary and stressful experience. It’s even more frustrating when the accident was not your fault, yet you have to deal with injuries, vehicle damage, medical bills, and lost income. This situation becomes exponentially more complicated if you don’t have car insurance at the time of the crash.
Unfortunately, around 1 in 7 drivers in Tennessee are uninsured. This means if an uninsured driver causes an accident, their victim has very little recourse to get compensation for their losses.
So what should you do if you are in an accident without insurance but were not at fault? Here is a comprehensive guide on how to handle this difficult situation in Tennessee.
Gather Evidence At The Scene
The first priority is to make sure everyone involved in the crash is safe and gets medical attention if needed. Once that is taken care of, start gathering as much evidence as possible to document what happened:
Take photos and videos – Use your smartphone to take pictures of the damage to each vehicle, their position on the road, any skid marks, the weather and road conditions, street signs or landmarks, etc. Take photos from multiple angles. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Get contact info – Exchange driver’s license, insurance, phone number, and address with the other driver. Also get their license plate number.
Get witness info – If anyone saw the accident happen, get their contact information. Witness statements will be crucial if you have to prove the other driver’s fault later.
Write down details – Note the date, time, and exact location of the accident. Also write down detailed notes about how the crash happened while it’s still fresh in your mind.
Call the police – Even if the accident seems minor, call the police and wait for them to arrive. The official police report will carry a lot of weight in assigning fault later on.
Seek medical care – Get checked by a doctor or go to the ER even if you don’t think you were injured. Some injuries like concussions often don’t show symptoms right away.
File A Claim With The At-Fault Driver’s Insurance
The at-fault driver’s liability insurance should cover injuries and damages they cause in an accident. Contact their insurance company as soon as possible and file a third-party claim.
Provide them documentation like medical records and repair estimates. Politely but firmly demand fair compensation for your losses. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney can be very helpful at this stage.
If the at-fault driver was also uninsured, unfortunately you won’t recover anything from their insurance. You’ll have to take legal action against the driver themselves.
Use Your Own Insurance If Possible
Health insurance – Use your health insurance to pay for any medical treatment needed after the accident. Inform them this was due to a car accident, and they may be able to get reimbursed after you recover damages.
Uninsured motorist coverage – If you have uninsured motorist coverage on your own auto policy, make a claim under that. It will pay for injuries caused by an uninsured driver.
MedPay coverage – If you have MedPay on your policy, it will help pay medical bills related to the accident up to the limit.
Collision coverage – If you have collision coverage, use it to repair your vehicle damage and get reimbursement from the at-fault driver later.
Consider Hiring A Personal Injury Attorney
A personal injury attorney experienced with car accident cases can be an invaluable ally in this situation. They will handle the insurance claim process for you and make sure you are fairly compensated. If a lawsuit is necessary, they know how to effectively prove the other driver’s fault and negligence.
Personal injury lawyers generally work on a contingency fee basis, meaning legal fees only come out of any settlement you recover. There are no upfront costs or fees. Having an attorney increases your chances of getting maximum compensation.
File A Personal Injury Lawsuit
If you exhaust all other options and are unable to recover damages directly from the at-fault driver or their insurance, your last resort is to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver.
You will have to prove:
- The other driver’s actions were negligent and directly caused the accident
- You suffered physical injuries and/or property damage as a result
- The types and monetary amounts of your damages
To build a strong case, your attorney will gather all evidence like police reports, medical records, witness statements, photo/video evidence, and expert testimony.
If you win, the at-fault driver will be ordered to pay your damages. However, collecting money directly from an uninsured defendant can be very difficult. Any assets or income they have could potentially be seized, or their wages garnished.
Consider Small Claims Court For Minor Cases
If your damages from the accident are relatively minor, you may be able to avoid hiring a lawyer and pursue compensation by filing in small claims court yourself.
The cap on damages that can be recovered in small claims court is around $25,000 in Tennessee. You’ll have to convince the judge yourself that the other driver was at fault and owes you compensation.
Don’t Delay Taking Action
It’s important not to delay taking legal action after a car accident, even if it wasn’t your fault. In Tennessee, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is just 1 year from the date of the accident.
If you wait too long, you may lose your right to recover any compensation. Speak to an attorney as soon as possible after an accident to understand all your options.
Consult An Experienced Car Accident Attorney
Being in an accident without insurance can make recovering damages much more complicated. An experienced Tennessee car accident attorney will know how to properly document evidence of the other driver’s fault, negotiate your claim with insurance companies, and take legal action if necessary. They can help ensure you are fairly compensated for your injuries and losses.
Tennessee Car Accident Laws
Here are some key points on Tennessee laws related to accidents involving uninsured drivers:
Tennessee is an “at-fault” state. The driver who caused the accident is liable for damages.
It is illegal to drive without insurance in Tennessee. Uninsured drivers can face fines and jail time.
The minimum liability insurance required in TN is $25,000 per injured person, $50,000 per accident for bodily injury and $15,000 for property damage.
Drivers are not automatically required to show proof of insurance during a traffic stop in TN. Police must have reasonable suspicion the driver is uninsured.
Tennessee has a “verbal threshold” for lawsuits. You can only sue for pain and suffering if injuries are serious (broken bones, permanent impairment etc).
The statute of limitations in TN for filing a personal injury claim is 1 year from the date of the accident.
It is scary and difficult to deal with a car accident when uninsured. But there are still options to recover damages in Tennessee.
Gather thorough evidence at the scene to prove the other driver’s fault.
Make a claim or file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver’s insurance.
Use your own health, MedPay, or uninsured motorist insurance if possible.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help maximize your compensation.
Don’t delay – you generally only have 1 year to take legal action in TN.
Consulting a knowledgeable car accident lawyer is highly recommended to protect your rights. With the right legal help, you can still recover fair compensation even without insurance.
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