New Tennessee Auto Insurance Law 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. The verification database will go online Tuesday, January 3, 2017.  The goal of the new law is to reduce the number of uninsured motorists in Tennessee. 

However, the new law does NOT require proof of financial responsibility (proof of insurance or POI) prior to registering your vehicle 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 the stop.

The JLA law is bringing Tennessee into the digital age by allowing law enforcement and the state to quickly and easily determine whether someone is compliance with the law.  Once the program goes online in January, the state Department of Revenue will begin contacting drivers who do not have record of insurance on their vehicles. 

Finally, the JLA law does establish financial penalties for failure to obtain POI, with the ability to suspend or revoke the registration for ultimate failure to comply.