New Tennessee Auto Insurance Law is Misunderstood

In 2015 the Tennessee General Assembly passed the “James Lee Atwood Jr.” (JLA) law with the purpose of developing and implementing an efficient insurance verification program utilizing an online verification system for auto insurance.

Last week Insurors met with insurance stakeholders, Revenue officials and the sponsors of the law for an update on where implementation of the new law stands. The verification database will go online Tuesday, January 3, 2017. The goal of the new law is to reduce the number of uninsured motorists on the road in Tennessee.  

The Department of Revenue, in conjunction with Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. William Lamberth, have filed a bill for the 109th General Assembly beginning in January to make a few minor modifications to the law. The most distinct modification will modify the reinstatement section of the law. Under the proposal, if a motor vehicle registration is suspended or revoked under the JLA law due to the owner’s failure to obtain proof of financial responsibility (proof of insurance or POI) then the owner must provide POI before being allowed to reinstate the registration.

The JLA law does NOT require POI prior to initial or annual registration of a vehicle, nor will it require POI for registration beginning January 1 as some news outlets have reported. Tennessee drivers have always been required to carry insurance, and to have POI if stopped for a moving violation or involved in an accident. The law also permits, but does not require, law enforcement to tow a vehicle failing to provide POI at the time of an official traffic stop.

At the end of the meeting, Rep. Lamberth thanked the insurance group, clerks and law enforcement for working together to ensure passage and implementation of this bill. Although some further modifications to law may be taking place, it is still important for Tennesseans to have the correct info on the current changes.