When it comes to auto insurance policies, too many Florida motorists purchase only the bare minimum required, so as to keep their monthly premiums low. A quarter of Florida drivers don’t have any insurance at all.
The trouble with this is two-fold. First, if you are involved in a crash with someone who is uninsured or underinsured, you will not be able to collect from them or the insurer the amount necessary to compensate you for your losses. And if you also have limited insurance – or no UM/UIM coverage – it may be extremely difficult to collect damages.
The good news is that while drivers aren’t required to carry UM/UIM coverage, insurance companies have to get a written waiver from drivers in order to drop it from the policy. Most drivers don’t do this, and that means most have UM/UIM coverage.
This coverage can be used in the event you are struck by a hit-and-run driver who is never identified or by a driver who has no insurance or not nearly enough insurance. It can also be used in the event you are struck by a car while walking or riding a bicycle.
If the UM/UIM coverage is stacked, Palm Beach car accident victims can receive a higher payment than they would otherwise because the policy will allow for broader, higher coverage in many cases. However, insureds need to read their policies carefully because there could be language in it that bars stacked coverage – and Florida courts have upheld these policies so long as the language is clear.
In the recent case of Midwestern Indem. Co. v. Brooks, a bicyclist struck by a vehicle in Missouri appealed trial court’s decision to dismiss her request to stack her UIM insurance coverage. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled the policy language was clear, and thus the policy as written was valid.
According to court records, plaintiff was riding her bicycle on a public road in September 2011 when she was struck by a negligent motor vehicle driver. (He later died of unrelated causes.)
Cyclist and her husband filed a lawsuit against driver’s estate, and soon settled for his insurance policy limit of $50,000. They retained the right to seek UIM coverage from her own auto insurance company. Even though she was on a bicycle, UM/UIM coverage can still be secured. Her single UIM policy covered multiple vehicles, and indicated the UIM bodily injury limits were $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. The couple had five vehicles insured – for which they paid five UIM premiums. They sought to recover $500,000 from their insurance company through stacking.
However, insurer countered by paying plaintiff $100,000, indicating that was the per-person limit for a single application of the policy’s UIM coverage.
The insurer then sought a judicial declaration that the UIM coverage limits for multiple vehicles don’t stack to multiply the per-person limit.
The court granted summary judgment in the insurer’s favor, indicating the plain language of the policy made it “quite clear” that intra-policy stacking is barred, and the per-person maximum for any single accident is $100,000.
Had that provision not been included – or not been clear – it’s possible plaintiff could have received as much as $500,000 from her insurer under the circumstances.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Midwestern Indem. Co. v. Brooks, March 2, 2015, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
More Blog Entries:
Report: Older Drivers Are Among the Safest, Although With Higher Injury Risk, Feb. 26, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog