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The “Full Coverage” Insurance Conundrum

Story by Marcos Garza  |  Photography by Tom Namey and Nathan Sparks

Full Doesn’t Always Mean Full

Last year, our client Angelina was involved in a motor vehicle crash in Maryville, with her 16-year-old son, his girlfriend, and their pet inside the car. Angelina was injured in the crash, having to do physical therapy for more than a year after. “I still hurt,” she says. “I’m not going to lose that pain. I have a history of back problems so I stay in chronic pain.”

Angelina had full car insurance coverage on her vehicle, but she says she didn’t fully understand what that meant until the crash occurred. “I thought it paid out more, but I was wrong,” she says, adding later. “It doesn’t cover much.” And I suspect that, like Angelina, most people who have been in an car crash might feel the same.

The minimum liability insurance coverage in the state of Tennessee is $25,000 for each individual, $50,000 for total injuries, $50,000 for property damage. That’s been the law for more than 40 years. What that means is that the maximum the insurance company will pay per person injured is $25,000; $50,000 per event. And while that sounds like a significant amount, this “full coverage” might cover a single night in the hospital. Just one. But for so many people, that one night might only scratch the surface of the costs incurred from just one significant collision.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

What many do not realize is that you can protect yourself from drivers with minimum liability limits by purchasing a larger policy such as a $100,000 or $300,000 policy with underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage—also known as UM/UIM. For minimal additional money on a six-month policy, you can actually obtain a level of coverage that will help you or your family, should someone happen to experience traumatic injuries and exorbitant medical expenses as a result of a car crash. 

UM/UIM is coverage that can “kick in” in the event that the person who hits you has only minimum coverage, and therefore, minimal ability to cover the pain and suffering and medical expenses incurred as a result of the collision.

Finding Peace and Closure

It was about six months ago when Devon contacted our office at Garza Law. A 25-year-old from right here in East Tennessee, Devon had been involved in a traumatic motorcycle crash just a few minutes from his house. Hit from behind, he suffered multiple broken bones as a result. However, the impacts of the collision had only just begun. “I never expected it to turn out this way,” Devon says. “I have insurance on my vehicles and such, but I didn’t really think a whole lot through having it on my motorcycle because I hadn’t had it that long.”

Devon spent 23 days in the hospital after the crash and continues to meet with doctors for follow-ups, surgeries, and more. Even if he had insurance, “full coverage” might have only covered the very first day of his hospital visit. 

At Garza Law, we work each day to help our clients find peace and closure in their most trying moments, whether that’s a slip and fall incident, medical malpractice, or common car crash. We also work to encourage legislative changes that will help our clients even further in the future, such as updating the insurance minimum law that was enacted in 1979.

Until that time comes, we are here to work with you should you ever come into contact with a challenging situation like Angelina and Devon. 

At Garza Law, we’ve handled hundreds of personal injury cases, taking the burden off our clients and stewarding them through what is often a grueling process to recover some semblance of what they lost. We want you to be able to move on with your life and not let a crash define you, whether that’s due to financial or physical distress. We’re here for you, and the entire team at Garza Law is ready to help.

550 W. Main Street, Suite 340  |  Knoxville, TN 37902  |  865-540-8300  |  garzalaw.com

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