When you’re involved in an accident, having sufficient car insurance coverage is important. When an uninsured or underinsured motorist crashes into your car, that’s doubly true, because he or she doesn’t have enough to cover your medical bills and property damage. “Stacking” your uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage can be a lifesaver — if your state allows it.
Stacking UM/UIM coverages means you are able to collect from more than one car insurance policy to receive full payment for your injuries and property damage. Not every state allows this, so check the chart at end of this story. Here’s how you can stack your coverages.
Insurance Stacking Example 1
You own an auto insurance policy under which two or more cars are insured with UM/UIM coverage. When you’re hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver, you collect the limits of your UM/UIM coverage under as many vehicles as necessary to receive full payment for your damages. For example, if you have a two-car policy with $50,000 worth of bodily injury UM/UIM coverage per person on each car, you can collect up to $100,000.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) pays if you are injured by an at-fault driver who is underinsured or not insured at all.
- Stacking UM/UIM allows you to combine coverage limits from multiples vehicles for a claim, which helps you to receive full payment for your injuries and damaged property.
- States vary on if stacking of UM/UIM is allowed.
- In some states that allow stacking, insurers are allowed to exclude stackings in the policy details.
Insurance Stacking Example 2
You own more than one auto insurance policy with UM/UIM coverage. (The policies could be with the same insurer or two different insurers.) To collect all of the damages, you could make a claim under the UM/UIM coverage of each of the insurance policies you own. For example, if you have one policy with $50,000 worth of UM/UIM bodily injury coverage per person and another policy with $25,000 worth of UM/UIM bodily injury coverage, you can collect up to $75,000 for any injury you suffer as a result of a collision with an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
States split on stacking
Some state laws prohibit stacking of UM/UIM coverage, but many allow it in one form or another. Presently, 30 states have statutes, rules or case law that allows stacking. However, Robert Passmore, spokesperson for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, cautions that the details of your situation can affect your ability to stack coverage and that state laws, rules and codes change often as courts issue new decisions.
Also, in many of the states that allow stacking, car insurance companies are nonetheless permitted to insert policy language that prevents policyholders from stacking UM/UIM coverage. So while your state might permit stacking, if your policy expressly forbids it, you won’t be able to stack your benefits.
Another wrinkle: The states that expressly forbid stacking of your UM/UIM benefits when you’re the driver of a vehicle hit by an uninsured motorist might allow you to stack coverage if you are injured as a passenger in a vehicle or as a pedestrian that has been struck by an uninsured driver. For example, if you’re a passenger in a car struck by an uninsured driver, you could collect benefits from the car insurance policy of the driver of the car in which you are a passenger, as well as from your own policy if the driver’s UM/UIM benefits were not enough to pay for your injuries.
There’s also the possibility that you can collect from your own UM and UIM coverage more than once because many states regard these as separate coverages. For example, if you’re a pedestrian who’s hit by an uninsured driver, your UM coverage would kick in first and, theoretically, you could collect from your UIM coverage if your UM coverage is not enough to pay for your injuries.
However, the laws in each state vary widely with each situation and often depend on previous cases that have been decided in court. The bottom line is that there is often no easy answer to finding out if you can stack your UM/UIM benefits.
Where you can stack auto insurance coverage
|Arkansas||Yes||Although stacking coverage is not statutorily prohibited, it may be precluded by applicable anti-stacking clause in a policy.|
|Delaware||Yes||Stacking is allowed but only among multiple policies.|
|Florida||Yes||Stacking is allowed, unless waived in writing on state-approved form.|
|Georgia||Yes||Stacking is allowed but only among multiple policies.|
|Hawaii||No||Not allowed under multiple policies, but insurer must offer the option to purchase stacking under a single policy.|
|Indiana||No||Only allowed under one policy if separate and specific premium is charged for UM coverage.|
|Mississippi||Yes||While stacking is allowed, clear anti-stacking clauses in an insurance policy have been upheld by the courts.|
|New Hampshire||Yes||Unless clearly excluded by an insurer’s policy.|
|New Jersey||Yes||Stacking is allowed but only among multiple policies.|
|New York||Yes||Stacking is allowed but only among multiple policies.|
|North Carolina||Yes||Stacking is allowed but only among multiple policies.|
|Ohio||Yes||Unless clearly excluded by an insurer’s policy.|
|Oklahoma||Yes||Stacking is allowed but only among multiple policies.|
|Oregon||Yes||Stacking is allowed but only among multiple policies.|
|Pennsylvania||Yes||But insured may select no-stacking option for a reduced premium.|
|South Carolina||Yes||Unless clearly excluded by an insurer’s policy.|
|Tennessee||Yes||Stacking is allowed but only among multiple policies.|
|Texas||Yes||Stacking is allowed but only among multiple policies.|
|Utah||Yes||Stacking is allowed but only among multiple policies.|
|Washington||No||But anti-stacking language must be very clear in the insurer’s policy.|
|West Virginia||Yes||But insurer may clearly prohibit stacking in a single policy.|
|Wisconsin||Yes||But insurer may limit coverage to 3 vehicles.|
|Wyoming||Yes||Stacking is allowed but only among multiple policies.|
Source: Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, 2009 statistics