License, Insurance, and Registration Please

Accidents and Reporting

  • A car accident is a very traumatic situation, but it is important you keep your cool.
  • If you are hurt or your car is wrecked, you will have to deal with it.
  • If you hurt someone else or their property, you will have to deal with it.
  • Either way, you must behave as an adult and work through the problems of dealing with law enforcement, fixing cars, and maybe getting medical treatment.
  • You can reduce the stress, and manage the long term damage to your finances and reputation, if you know the laws first. Read on.


First Steps to Take When You Are In An Accident

  • Never leave the scene of an accident. You can, and probably will, lose your license for a while if you leave.
  • Stop your car, park as close to the accident as you can and still be safe, and stay out of traffic. Don’t panic. Look around you. Pay attention to the traffic whizzing by, and any other dangers.
  • Help people who might have been hurt. Be careful, though! Don’t move an injured person unless you absolutely have to. You could make it worse. If possible, wait for an ambulance.
  • Call 911 to report the accident and any injuries. Cooperate with local Tennessee police, sheriff or highway patrol.
  • If you are injured in a car accident, try to stay calm. Do your best to stay out of even more danger, and don’t block traffic. Call or wait for help, and don’t move if you can’t safely move.
  • Don’t say things like, “Oh, I’m so sorry! I’m sure it was all my fault!” Maybe it wasn’t. But these statements will have a way of being held against you if they can be, even if they maybe shouldn’t be held against you.


Exchanging Information After An Accident

  • Under Tennessee law, you must give information to others involved in an accident. The other people in the accident are also required to give their information to you.
  • Ask for contact information of anyone who saw the wreck, just in case you need to have them describe what they saw later.
  • Each driver in the accident must share this information with each other after an accident:
    • Name, address and contact details
    • Driver license number
    • License plate number of the vehicles involved
    • Car insurance information (insurance company name, phone number, policy number) for those in the wreck.


What Else To Do At The Accident Scene

  • Although the law doesn’t require it, take pictures at the scene of the accident. You know you have your phone with you! This will likely be important evidence later.
  • If you hit a parked car, you absolutely have to try to find the owner or driver, and give:
    • Your name, contact info, driver license number, license plate number, and insurance info.
  • If you can’t locate the owner of a parked car, you must leave a note with:
    • Your name, your contact information, and a brief description of what happened.


Reporting an Accident to the Tennessee Department of Safety

  • You have to report an accident to the Tennessee Department of Safety (DOS; within 20 days if:
    • Anyone is injured or dies OR
    • There was property damage over $400 (highly likely if a car was damaged)
  • When you report an accident, you have to report the details of your insurance coverage.
    • The DOS will check with the insurance company to see if you were insured.
  • If you did not have liability insurance when the accident happened, you will be fined $300 and you will lose your license to drive for at least several months.
  • You will have to file proof of future financial responsibility (SR22) in order to get your license back. Read on for what that means.


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