Nashville Insurance Insight: Why the minimum Tennessee auto insurance limits aren’t enough



A question I’ve been asked from time to time: Do you have to get car insurance in Nashville?

Quick answer: Legally speaking, yes. If you’re driving a car in Tennessee, you’re required, by law, to carry a minimum level of liability insurance, in place to protect other drivers from injuries or damage you might cause.

Those Tennessee minimums, as of March, 2017:

$25,000 for one injury or death

$50,000 for all injuries or deaths

$15,000 for property damage for one accident

(You can read more about the state Minimum Limits of Liability at the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security’s site, if you’re intrigued by the nuts and bolts of state laws.)

The long answer to that question: There are legally required auto insurance minimums in Tennessee, yes, but they’re generally not enough to adequately protect you. 

Legal minimums: minimal coverage. In most cases, sticking with the minimum isn't a great idea.

Let’s look at some quick data to illustrate why:

1. Crashes are common.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that in 2015, there were an estimated 6,296,000 police-reported vehicle crashes. That’s more than 17,000 a day. About 719 an hour. Twelve every minute.


2. Crashes are becoming more common.

Also from the NHTSA: total police-reported crashes were up that year, almost 4 percent.


3. Injuries are common.

Within those 2015 crashes, an estimated 2,443,000 people were injured.


4. There are more and more vehicles are on the road.

This likely feeds into to U.S. traffic crash data increasing. In 2012, there were about 249 million registered vehicles in the United States. In 2016, it was closer to 262 million.

Depending on how optimistic you are, those might seem like good odds. But let me focus in a little closer to home:

Every month, about 2000 traffic crashes happen in Davidson County alone.


So what happens if you have an accident, and your coverage isn’t enough?

Also worth knowing before you sign your next auto insurance policy: Average auto liability claims aren’t low.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2015, the average auto liability claim for property damage was $3,493. The average auto liability claim for bodily injury was $17,024.

The takeaway from that, at least for me: Our state limits dance uncomfortably close to the average claim — far too close for comfort if you have a reasonable amount of assets. Food for thought: What if you rear-end a Porsche?

The Illinois State Bar Association has a really informative publication about auto insurance and accidents that lays out the risks of having too little coverage. (I know it’s not Tennessee, but the concepts carry over.) A key point:

“Unfortunately, if someone brings a lawsuit against you to recover damages for an automobile accident that you caused and the court enters a judgment finding you liable for a total damage amount that exceeds the amount of your liability limits, you are required to pay the excess amount out of your own income or assets. If you do not have sufficient cash on hand to pay the excess judgment, you may in some cases be forced to liquidate assets or be subject to garnishment of your wages. For this reason, you are encouraged to purchase insurance with sufficiently high liability limits to protect your assets and income from collection.”

Something I want to emphasize: “protect your assets and income.” I always reiterate: Your insurance needs are specific to you, and there’s no one-size-fits-all.

Here's what I'd say is my core advice here:

If you have very little in the way of assets, state minimums may work for what you need. But if your income and assets are more than minimal, I’d strongly recommend looking at policies that’ll protect those assets in the event of a serious incident.

Ultimately, I hope that zero of my clients ever have to use their insurance. But my job is to help those clients consider possibilities and risks, and protect themselves and their assets against those risks.

In the event of an accident that makes a claim necessary, I’ll be advocating for you every step of the way. It’s part of the benefit of working with an independent insurance broker — and it’s something I take pride in doing.

Do you have any questions about car insurance in Nashville, or other kinds of insurance coverage? I’m always happy to help — just reach out.

And if you’d like a quick and easy way to explore rates: Get an online insurance quote here.