Midwestern Indem. Co. v. Brooks – Stacking of UIM Coverage Benefits

When a person is involved in an auto accident with another driver who lacks insurance – or lacks enough insurance to cover all damages – the injured party can pursue uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage through their own insurer.
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The term “stacking” in reference to UM/UIM claims refers to the practice of combining the UM/UIM limit applicable to any one vehicle on the policy with the limit on other applicable vehicles. However, N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-279.21(b)(3) limits this practice. Within that same statute is a stipulation barring intrapolicy stacking for UM/UIM claims.

However, there may be instances in which interpolicy stacking (under two or more insurance policies) is permissible for both UM and UIM claims where non-fleet, private passenger vehicles are involved.

In order to maximize the amount of coverage in any given case, it’s imperative to consult with an experienced car accident attorney in Charlotte. The fact is, your insurance company is not going to tell you all the possible recovery options available to you. It will be up to your legal team to sort through the fine print of the policy to determine exactly the coverage to which you are entitled.

In the recent case of Midwestern Indem. Co. v. Brooks, the issue of intrapolicy stacking was weighed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

According to court records, the case began in September 2011 when plaintiff, while riding her bicycle, was struck by a man negligently operating a motor vehicle. Later, that driver died of unrelated causes. The cyclist and her husband filed a lawsuit in Missouri against the driver’s estate, and ultimately settled the claim for $50,000, which was the limit under his auto insurance policy. As part of the settlement, cyclist agreed not to seek additional recovery from decedent’s estate or heirs or insurer. However, they did retain the right to seek additional coverage from the cyclist’s own auto insurance company.

That UIM policy allowed coverage for several vehicles. On the declarations page, it was stated the policy provided up to $100,000 per person for bodily injury and up to $300,000 per accident. Next to this were listed five vehicles, with premium amounts next to these five vehicles, providing UIM coverage for each.

The insurance company later paid plaintiff $100,000, declaring this was the per-person limit for a single application of the UIM policy.

Later, the insurance company filed a lawsuit against the couple in federal court (while their own state case was still pending) seeking a declaration that its UIM coverage limits for multiple vehicles don’t allow insureds to stack the coverage limits per person for multiple vehicles.

Trial court issued a summary judgment in the insurer’s favor, and the federal appellate court affirmed, noting the plain language of the policy indicated it was “quite clear” that intra-policy stacking was barred, and the per-person total limit for a single accident was $100,000.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Midwestern Indem. Co. v. Brooks, March 2, 2015, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

More Blog Entries:
Harb v. City of Bakersfield – Alleged Improper Police Response to Crash Warrants New Trial, Feb. 18, 2015, Charlotte Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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