Tennessee Car Accident Laws – A Complete Guide


Laura Schaefer

If you’ve recently been injured in a car accident, it’s important to know Tennessee car accident laws as you hire a lawyer. Each year, motorists in Tennessee suffer over 5,000 car accidents resulting in fatalities or serious injuries. The state’s mountainous terrain and varied climate have caused crash-related fatalities to rise year over year.

If you live in Nashville, Knoxville, or another Tennessee town, read on for some key details about:

  • Insurance requirements
  • The state’s statute of limitations for filing a case to recover damages
  • Its fault-based system of comparative negligence

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How to Report a Tennessee Car Accident

First, stop your car and move it outside of traffic. According to Tennessee Code Annotated 55-10-101:

“The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to the scene as possible.”

-Tenn. Code § 55-10-101 (a)

Failure to stop in violation of this section may result in a Class A misdemeanor. Leaving the scene may be considered a hit and run according to Tennessee car accident laws. This act may be considered a felony if you left and the crash caused serious injury or death.

Next, if someone is hurt or there is noticeable damage to either vehicle, call the police or call 911. The official police report will be useful if you file an injury claim or other lawsuit. Any Tennessee driver involved in an accident must report the crash in writing to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security for:

  1. Any person killed or injured in the accident
  2. The accident resulted in damage to the property of any person (including the reporting driver) of at least $400

You can report the crash using Tennessee’s official Owner/Driver Report. This must be done within 20 days of your collision. Failure to do so may result in suspended driving privileges and registration.

Info to Record in a Crash

According to Tenn. Code § 55-10-103, any crash resulting in injury or death requires drivers to exchange information. This also extends to accidents involving ADS-operated vehicles. Take the following steps to protect yourself:

  • Get witness contact information. If anyone witnessed the accident, ask for their name, phone number, and email address.
  • Take photos with your phone. Record property damage, visible injuries, and any factors that may have contributed to the accident, including weather conditions or obstructed signage.
  • Call your insurance company and a car accident attorney in your state.

Because Tennessee is an at-fault state, do not admit fault at the scene. Apologizing or making any implication you’re at-fault will lower your chances of a settlement. Keep the exchange brief and cordial.

Is Tennessee a No-Fault State?

No, Tennessee is an at-fault state, meaning the parties responsible for car accidents are liable for any resulting damages. To get a monetary settlement for car accident damages, you must prove you were less than 50% at-fault for the accident.

If the accident was caused by the other driver texting while driving, for example, you must prove the other driver’s actions directly caused the collision. This proof could come in the form of:

  • Witness statements
  • Video footage (captured by traffic signals or bystanders)
  • Cell phone records

Tennessee Car Insurance Laws

All drivers must carry a minimum amount of liability auto insurance in Tennessee. Current minimum coverage amounts are like those of many other states:

  • $25,000 for personal injuries involving one person;
  • $50,000 for personal injuries involving multiple people
  • $15,000 in an accident that only involves property damage

Financing your vehicle may require you to carry additional insurance coverage by your bank or lender. Tennessee requires your insurance to carry additional coverage in case your minimums cannot cover the accident damages.

Additional Insurance Options

Examples of additional coverage include collision insurance, which covers the cost to repair or replace your vehicle. Another option is uninsured motorist coverage, which covers your injuries involving an uninsured or underinsured driver. This covers your injuries and other damages since they cannot pay.

Tennessee Comparative Negligence Laws

Tennessee is a modified comparative negligence state. In these states, both drivers may share blame for the accident. The settlement you receive from the other driver’s insurance company will depend on the percentage of your own fault. If you’re less than 50% responsible for the accident, you receive a reduced settlement according to your liability.

IMPORTANT: If you were partially responsible, your damage award will be reduced by the percentage of your fault. If your award was $40,000 and you were 25% responsible, your award drops to $30,000.

Types of Damages After a Car Accident in Tennessee

Tennessee law allows victims of car accidents to recover damages caused by the negligence of another driver. There are two types of damages available to victims, economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages are the measurable losses you suffered from a car accident. Common examples of economic damages include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Vehicle repairs and maintenance costs
  • Lost income or wages
  • Loss of use of property
  • Lost employment opportunity

Non-economic damages are the non-measurable losses from a car crash. Examples of non-economic damages include:

Contact an auto accident attorney to make sure you are getting the right payment amount for the economic and non-economic damages you suffered.

Damages Caps In Tennessee Car Accident Laws

Tennessee does not cap economic damages. The state does place a $750,000 cap on non-economic damages. In cases where the car accident victim suffers “catastrophic injuries,” however, the $750,000 cap raises to $1 million. Catastrophic injuries include:

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Amputations
  • Third-degree burns over 40% or more of the body
  • Wrongful death of the parent of a minor

Tennessee Statute of Limitations

According to Tennessee Code section 28-3-104, if you were hurt in a Tennessee car accident, you must file a lawsuit against the driver causing the accident within one year.

IMPORTANT: The exception to this limitation is if the injured person was a minor. A child injured in a car wreck has one year after his or her 18th birthday to file a claim against the at-fault party.

Wrongful death caused by an accident is also subject to the same one-year filing deadline. However, the “clock” starts running on the day of the accident victim’s death, which could be later than the date of the accident.

Property damage has a different limit according to Tenn. Code § 28-3-105. If your car or property was damaged, you must get your lawsuit filed within three years of the date of the accident.

Meet Our Network of Trusted Auto Accident Attorneys

Car accidents in the state of Tennessee are complex to deal with on your own. One misstep in your paperwork and problems show up in the future, and various misconceptions about tort law doesn’t clear the confusion.

Not only will an attorney clear up the complex legal process for you, but you may receive a higher settlement than if you agreed to the insurance company’s first offer.

LegalASAP can connect you with an auto accident lawyer in Nashville, Knoxville, or any other area of Tennessee to review your case for free. The whole process is free of charge until you win your settlement, so click below to continue:

Laura Schaefer

Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.