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Penalties for driving without insurance in Tennessee

Woman pulled over by police

If you’re moving to Tennessee or already live in the Volunteer State, there are some rules of the road that you’ll want to familiarize yourself with. Tennessee requires drivers to meet certain requirements, including maintaining car insurance coverage if they plan to own and operate a vehicle within state lines. There are penalties for driving without insurance in Tennessee, which can include ticketing, fines and even jail time. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team outlines the risks of driving without insurance in Tennessee so you can avoid these penalties and protect yourself financially.

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Minimum insurance required in Tennessee

Drivers in Tennessee are required to carry a minimum amount of liability car insurance. This insurance must be valid for each car that they own and operate within the state. If you are caught behind the wheel while failing to meet these requirements, you could face a ticket for driving without insurance and may be subject to even more severe penalties, depending on your driving record.

On January 1, 2023, Tennessee updated its minimum requirements for car insurance. The state requirements for liability insurance are as follows:

  • $25,000 per person for bodily injury liability
  • $50,000 per accident for bodily injury liability
  • $25,000 per accident for property damage liability (increased as of January 1, 2023)

An exception for the insurance requirements for Tennessee is available but requires the driver to to show proof of financial responsibility in one of three ways. You will have to prove to the state’s Department of Revenue that you are financially capable of taking responsibility after an accident by doing one of the following:

  • Post a bond of $65,000.
  • Provide a cash deposit of $65,000.
  • Maintain a single limit policy of not less than $65,000 in liability coverage

If you are behind the wheel of a vehicle in Tennessee, you will need to carry either proof of insurance or financial responsibility to avoid penalties from the state.

Keep in mind that the minimum car insurance requirements to drive legally in Tennessee will not cover damage to your own vehicle if you cause an accident. It is also possible that the state’s required liability limits may not be enough to cover all vehicle damage or injuries to someone else if you are responsible for an accident. That’s why many insurance experts advise drivers to carry full coverage car insurance to better protect your finances in case you are involved in an accident.

Penalties for driving without insurance in Tennessee

If you decide to drive without insurance in Tennessee, or if you cannot provide proof of insurance or financial responsibility upon being stopped by the police, you could be subject to the following fines and penalties:

  • $300 fine
  • Having your vehicle towed
  • A suspended driver’s license until you can provide proof and pass the driver’s test again.

Before any penalty is levied against you, the Department of Revenue will send a notification to request insurance verification and give you 30 days to respond. If you fail to respond and provide proof of insurance or financial responsibility, expect to be subject to penalties from the state. You could face even more severe penalties if you are caught driving without insurance more than once.

Getting into an accident without insurance

If you are involved in an accident while driving without insurance in Tennessee, you could face significant financial consequences. Not only could you be subject to the penalties for driving without insurance and face the potential of losing your driver’s license, you may also be required to pay out-of-pocket for any injuries or damage done as a result of the accident. Tennessee is an at-fault state, meaning the person deemed to be at fault for an accident is required to pay costs for injuries as well as physical damage to the car, and the financial costs can be steep. You could be sued by the other party, which would require you to pay additional fees for court and a lawyer. You could also face a Class A misdemeanor and pay up to $2,500 in fines and face jail time.

If you were to get into an accident without car insurance, it will also affect your premium in the future since car insurance companies base your rate on risk. When shopping for car insurance, the incident may appear in your driving history and result in a higher premium.

Frequently asked questions

    • If you provide false car insurance information in Tennessee in an attempt to avoid tickets or penalties for driving without insurance, you could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor for attempting to commit insurance fraud, which is considered a crime. You could face up to 11 months, 29 days in jail and up to $2,500 in fines if you are convicted of this crime.
    • The average cost for car insurance in Tennessee is $371 per year for the state-mandated minimum coverage and $1,429 per year for full coverage, which is significantly lower than the national average cost of $622 for minimum coverage and $2,014 for full coverage.

      While full coverage does cost more, it also typically provides higher liability coverage limits as well as collision and comprehensive coverage for damage to your vehicle if you cause an accident. Talk to your insurance agent to see what level of coverage is right for you.

    • In 2017, the James Lee Atwood Jr. Law went into effect, bringing with it stiffer penalties for failure to provide proof of insurance during a traffic stop or at the scene of an accident. The fine was increased from $100 to $300 and chargeable as a Class C misdemeanor, which could include up to 30 days in jail. Depending on your personal rating factors, Tennessee drivers might be able to find cheap car insurance for as little as $199 per year for minimum coverage, which is less than the penalty for driving without insurance.

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