Tennessee Car Accident: Steps to Take Immediately
First, move to safety. Place your emergency flashers on and turn your engine off. If anyone has been injured, call 911 immediately.
Yes. Documentation is your not-so-secret weapon when dealing with the insurance company after a car accident. Use your phone to take photos of the damage to all of the vehicles involved, including your own. Be sure to get photos of the location of the vehicles, any debris or tire marks in the roadway, and the license plates of the other vehicles involved. You should also take photos of any injuries you sustained, including cuts and bruises.
Obtain pertinent information from the at-fault driver and any potential witnesses. This includes the full name, address, phone number and insurance information, including policy number, of the at-fault driver, as well as the contact information of any witnesses. Obtaining witness information at this time is crucial because witnesses often leave the scene prior to the arrival of the police. One way to quickly get information from the other parties/witnesses is to take a photograph of their driver's licenses and then save their contact information into your phone. Do not discuss fault with the other driver when you are gathering information. When you file an insurance claim, the adjuster will look at all the documentation, including the accident report and witness statements, to make an initial determination regarding fault.
Seeking medical care after an accident should be your priority. If you are experiencing pain after a car accident (even minor pain), the best practice is to go to the emergency room ("What You Need to Know About Going to Leconte Medical Center Emergency Room After a Sevierville Car Accident"). Going to the emergency room protects your health and your legal rights. Insurance adjusters often use a claimant's "delayed medical treatment" as justification for offering low-ball, unfair settlements that do not even cover all the related medical bills. Do not provide the hospital with your auto insurance information while you are at the emergency room. Give them your health insurance card and say that any charges need to be processed through your health insurance ("Why You Should Submit the Medical Bills from Your Car Accident to Your Health Insurance ASAP").
You should report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Your insurance policy almost certainly has a clause which requires you to notify your insurance company following an accident. You can report your car accident by calling the phone number on the back of your auto insurance card or going online to your auto insurance company's website.
Unlike your own auto insurance company, you are not contractually obligated to speak to an adjuster with the other side's insurance company. However, from a practical standpoint, you may need to speak with the other side's insurance company in order to expedite your vehicle repairs or obtain a rental car. It is important to remember that the primary goal of the other driver's car insurance company is to pay out as little money as possible. The company does not have your interests in mind. It wants to find evidence that you were at fault for the accident, and that your damages or injuries are minor (or nonexistent). You should not give a recorded statement. You are not required to give a recorded statement to the other driver's insurance company, and it is not usually in your best interest to do so. The best way to protect your legal rights after an accident is to hire an experienced personal injury attorney who would in turn handle all communications with the at-fault driver's insurance company for you.
The investigating officers will prepare an accident report, which will both diagram the vehicles' positions on the roadway and offer the officer's opinion of whether any laws were broken and who was at fault. While portions of the accident report may or may not be admissible in a personal injury trial, they can provide powerful incentive for the adverse insurance company to accept responsibility and attempt to settle a claim. The officer will give you a card with the report number as well as the officer's name and badge number. You can use the information on that card to later obtain a copy of your accident report. Depending upon the specific location of your Sevier County car accident, one of the following agencies would investigate the wreck: the Gatlinburg Police Department, Pigeon Forge Police Department, Sevierville Police Department, Sevier County Sheriff's Department, or the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
Correcting factual errors: If the law enforcement officer got some objective information wrong—details about your vehicle, your insurance coverage, or the location of the accident, for example—you can probably get the report changed or amended as long as you provide documentation in support of the correction. Changing disputable information: If you simply don't agree with something that is in the report—an account of the accident given by a witness, or the officer's finding that you violated a traffic law—you'll have a much tougher time getting any change made. In that situation, the best you can probably do is write up your own version of the detail you're disputing and hope that it will be included as a supplement to the report. But in most cases, whether it is added to the report will be up to the law enforcement agency. Our law firm routinely submits and obtains amendments to incorrect accident reports for our clients from our local law enforcement agencies, if required in order to set the record straight.
Tennessee Car Accident: Insurance Coverage
Liability Coverage: Tennessee law requires every driver to have Liability Coverage. Liability Coverage is an auto insurance coverage that pays for injuries to the other party and damages to the other vehicle resulting from an accident that you caused. It also pays if the accident was caused by someone covered by your policy, including a driver operating the car with your permission. In Tennessee, there are two types of required Liability Coverage:
- Bodily Injury Liability Coverage:
- This is coverage that pays the medical expenses and additional damages for which you are liable for other individuals injured in the accident. In Tennessee, the minimum policy limits for Bodily Injury Liability Coverage are $25,000 per person and $50,000 per occurrence.
- Property Damage Liability Coverage (PD):
- This is coverage that pays for damage to others' property resulting from the accident. PD also pays for legal defense costs if you are sued; however, certain exclusions may apply.
This is an optional coverage in your Tennessee auto policy that protects you in the event of an accident where the other party is at-fault and either doesn't carry insurance or is underinsured. Tennessee Uninsured/Underinsured Coverage is defined by Tenn. Code Ann. 56-7-1201. There are two different types:
- Property Damage helps pay for property damage to your vehicle that you are legally entitled to from another driver who is not insured or underinsured.
- Bodily Injury helps pay for damages due to bodily injury that you and other passengers of your vehicle are legally entitled to from another driver who is not insured or is underinsured.
This is optional insurance coverage that pays a limited amount for reasonable and necessary medical and funeral expenses if the policyholder, a family member, or a passenger in the car is injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident. The most common amount for MedPay Coverage in Tennessee is $5,000 per person. These expenses must be incurred as a result of an auto accident.
This is optional coverage that helps you pay for transportation expenses, such as a rental car or public transportation fare, while your own vehicle is being repaired after a covered insurance claim. It does not apply if your vehicle needs routine maintenance work or if you need to rent a car on vacation. If you have this type of coverage, it is usually limited to a certain dollar amount per day (usually between $30 and $40) and a certain number of days (usually 30 days).
This type of auto insurance coverage is used to repair your vehicle when physical damage occurs from non-collision related incidents (subject to deductible). Such incidents include theft, fire, vandalism, glass breakage, and contact with animals.
This type of auto insurance is used to repair your vehicle when physical damage occurs from collision with another vehicle or object (subject to deductible). This is the coverage you would use if you were at fault for a car accident where you hit another vehicle.
Tennessee law requires that the insurance policy for the vehicle be primary and the insurance policy covering the driver would be secondary (Tenn. Code Ann. 56-7-1101).
Tennessee law requires you to have a minimum of $25,000 per person/$50,000 per occurrence in Bodily Injury Liability Coverage, and a minimum of $15,000 in Property Damage Liability Coverage (Tenn. Code Ann. 56-7-1201). If your policy includes Uninsured Motorist Coverage, Tennessee law requires a minimum Bodily Injury policy limit of $25,000 per person/$50,000 per occurrence.
If the other driver doesn't have insurance, then it is up to you to pay for the damages they caused. You should call your insurance company and report that claim. If you have Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage, your insurance company will pay for the damage to your vehicle and possibly for your medical bills, pain and suffering, etc.
The quickest way to figure out what coverage you have under your Tennessee Auto Insurance Policy is to look at a copy of the Declarations Page, or "Dec Page," of your policy. The Dec Page is sent to you with each policy renewal and shows what type of coverage you have for each vehicle insured under the policy. It also shows the cost of each type of coverage. The Dec Page is the most important part of your insurance policy because:
- it dictates the main coverages that determine how your car wreck claim is paid
- it states what the limits are for each section of the policy
- it includes the premiums charged for the coverage you have purchased
Tennessee Car Accident: Property Damage
The person who is at fault for the accident is responsible for the cost of your vehicle repairs.
Yes. The parts used do not necessarily have to be original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, but should be of like kind and quality as the parts that are being replaced.
Yes. You have the right to choose the body shop that repairs your car.
Yes. You do not have to repair your vehicle. You can take the money from the insurance company and choose to not repair your car.
In Tennessee, a vehicle is considered a "total loss" if the repair estimate exceeds 75 percent of the retail market value as determined by the current published retail costs [TCA 55-3-211 (9)(A)].
In Tennessee, the at-fault driver is not required to provide you with a rental car if your vehicle is a "total loss" [Prewitt v. Brown 525 S.W.3d, 616 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2017)]. Despite this case law, many insurance companies covering at-fault drivers in Tennessee will still pay for a rental car after an accident, so our advice is to go ahead and request a rental car from the at-fault driver's insurance company—the worst they can say is no.
Your insurance company is required to pay you what is known as the actual cash value (ACV) of your vehicle. The ACV is the market value of the vehicle taking into consideration pre-loss condition, options and mileage. To determine the amount it will pay you, your insurance carrier researches your vehicle's market value by comparing your vehicle to vehicles that are for sale in your local area. The Tennessee Department of Insurance forces the insurance companies to also reimburse you the sales tax you will have to pay when you replace the vehicle. Chapter 0780-01-05 of the Tennessee Unfair Claims Settlement Practices outlines how the insurance company must calculate the total loss value of your vehicle.
How to Deal With the Insurance Company After a Tennessee Car Accident
Chapter 0780-01-05 of the Tennessee Unfair Claims Settlement Practices protects insurance buyers from unjust behavior by insurers in the claims settlement process.
No, it is never a good idea to give a recorded statement to the at-fault driver's insurance company. Remember, the adjuster's job is to pay you as little as possible.
No, do not sign a medical authorization from the at-fault driver's insurance company. Adjusters use medical authorizations to obtain a claimant's past medical records completely unrelated to the car accident. Then the adjuster will use those past medical records as justification to make a low-ball settlement offer to resolve your claim.
Tennessee Car Accident: Medical Bills
The at-fault driver's insurance company WILL NOT pay your medical bills as you send them in—the at-fault's driver's insurance company will only pay if you sign a complete release absolving their insured of any future liability for your injuries. The at-fault driver's insurance company will not piecemeal settlement monies by paying your individual medical bills. In other words, they don't pay you a cent until your entire injury claim is resolved. Many injury victims have their credit scores ruined by unpaid medical bills because they mistakenly believe the at-fault insurance company is required to pay their medical bills once they are submitted.
If the driver that hit you was uninsured or underinsured, you may be dealing directly with your auto insurance carrier regarding your injury claim. Like the at-fault driver's insurance carrier, your Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage will not pay individual medical bills prior to the resolution of your injury claim.
Medical Payment Coverage is the only type of auto insurance coverage that will pay at least a limited amount of your medical bills upon receipt, prior to the resolution of your injury claim. Whether or not you should use your Medical Payment Coverage to pay your medical bills after a car accident can be a somewhat complicated issue. Regardless of whether you decide to use your medical payment coverage or not, one of the first things you should do after a car accident is notify your auto insurance carrier in writing NOT to make direct payments to any medical providers under your Medical Payment Coverage without your explicit approval. This prevents the emergency room or hospital that treated you after the accident from using part or all of your Medical Payment Coverage.
Submitting your bills to your health insurance carrier is the optimal way to get your medical bills paid after a car accident. However, getting your health insurance carrier to pay the claims related to your car accident can be complicated. Health insurance carriers frequently deny claims initially if the are related to a car accident. Making sure all related medical bills are paid by the health insurance carrier per the policy is a service we offer to all our personal injury clients, and is included in our representation agreements for no additional cost beyond the standard contingency fee.
Yes. If you do not have health insurance or Medical Payment Coverage available, then we recommend that you set up a payment plan with your medical providers in order to avoid having your bills sent to collection, and also to benefit from the self-pay discount offered by many medical providers. We also routinely send "letters of protection" stating a client's medical bills will be paid out of any settlement or judgment received if necessary. Letters of protection are one tool that we use to try and prevent damage to our clients' credit scores due to unpaid medical bills related to their car accidents; however, Íthey are not fool proof.
Tennessee Car Accident: Seeking Medical Treatment
We hear this from our car accident injury clients ALL THE TIME. There are multiple Sevier County physicians that simply refuse to treat a patient if he or she was injured in a car accident. When your trusted primary care physician refuses to treat you because you were hurt in a car accident, it can be very disheartening, not to mention frustrating and stressful. So why do certain physicians refuse to treat even their established patients if there is a car accident involved? Primarily because they don't want the "hassle." The physician may have treated a patient previously for injuries sustained in a car accident and been "burned"—in other words, they never got paid. With multiple insurance carriers involved, which complicates billing procedures, and the new trend of health insurance companies denying claims related to car accidents, many physicians say they have a "rule" against treating someone hurt in a car accident. Is it fair? Absolutely not. But outside of hospital emergency rooms and life-threatening injuries, doctors can refuse to treat individuals based on how they were injured. What should you do if your doctor refuses to treat you because you were in a car accident? Seek treatment somewhere else ASAP. Don't let too much time pass before you find another doctor who is willing to treat you. You can go to a local urgent care clinic, or depending on the severity of your injuries, you may want to just go to the emergency room. Being a local law firm with deep community roots, we help our clients who have been refused treatment by their physician find a qualified and caring doctor or specialist willing to help accident victims.