Your car insurance policy has coverage limits. For example, if you have $100,000 in uninsured motorist coverage, that is the limit on the amount of compensation you can recover for damages.
However, Pennsylvania allows you to stack uninsured motorist benefits, which could significantly increase your coverage limits. Below, learn more about what it means to stack uninsured motorist benefits, and how a landmark decision helped pave the way for many Pennsylvanians to stack coverage.
If you have questions about your car insurance claim or have been denied, our Harrisburg car accident lawyers may be able to help. Call today to learn more.
What Does “Stacking Uninsured Motorist Benefits” Mean?
Uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage is one of the optional benefits when purchasing a policy (although many people have this coverage because it is required by their lender or leasing company). If you decide to buy this coverage, you can choose stacked or unstacked benefits.
Stacking benefits means you may multiply the limits of your UM/UIM coverage by the number of vehicles on your policy. Say you have two cars on your insurance policy with $100,000/$300,000 of UM/UIM coverage, if you choose to stack your coverage, your UM/UIM benefits double ($200,000/$600,000).
Pennsylvania Laws on Uninsured Motorist Coverage
In Pennsylvania, UM/UIM coverage is optional. However, every insurance company must offer the coverage to their clients. If the client rejects the benefits, they must do so in writing. The limits of UM/UIM coverage must match the limits you select for your liability, such as bodily injury liability and property damage liability.
UM/UIM benefits are meant to provide an extra layer of coverage if you are involved in an accident with a motorist who does not have enough insurance to cover the costs of your injuries or property damage. UM/UIM is also used if the other driver who caused the crash does not have any insurance at all.
Until last year, insurance companies in Pennsylvania often invoked what was called the “household exclusion” rule to deny stacked UM/UIM coverage benefits to victims of car accidents if their bodily injury happened while they were in a vehicle not covered by UM/UIM benefits.
For example, say someone owns a car and a motorcycle and opted in for stacked UM/UIM coverage. Insurance companies would often make the person purchase two separate policies: one for the car and one for the motorcycle.
However, if this person tried to stack his or her benefits from both policies, the insurance company might invoke the “household exclusion” rule and deny the UM/UIM coverage. If the policyholder was injured in a motorcycle accident, the insurance company might say the motorcycle is not included on the car insurance policy, so coverage is excluded. This is the type of situation that led to the original lawsuit that resulted in the 2019 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision against the household exclusion. Schmidt Kramer Partner Scott Cooper represented the plaintiff in this case.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision overturned about 30 years of case law and went even further to rule that the January decision applied retroactively, meaning it applied to all claims about UM/UIM stacked benefits that were denied dating back to the 1990s when the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law was first passed.
Why You Should Purchase Uninsured Motorist Coverage
UM/UIM coverage is helpful when you are involved in an accident where the other driver does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance to cover your damages. This coverage can also be used if you are injured by a hit-and-run driver and the police cannot locate them. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a hit-and-run crash happens once every 60 seconds.
Although this type of coverage is optional, it is in your best interest to purchase it in case the worst happens.
Call a Licensed Attorney Today
The attorneys at Schmidt Kramer have helped accident victims recover the compensation they needed from their UM/UIM coverage benefits.
If you or a loved one had a claim denied because of a “household exclusion,” or for any other reason, we may be able to help you pursue benefits. Call our offices today to schedule a free consultation.
We do not charge you anything upfront while we build your case and you only pay us if we recover compensation on your behalf.
Call today for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation at (717) 888-8888.