Most of the time we drive our cars without major incident but as an attorney, I often see situations when someone is involved in a serious accident and their car insurance plays a major role in the options available to them. Purchasing car insurance can be very confusing. There are certain aspects of car insurance that are not mandatory in Pennsylvania and it can seem quite attractive to elect not to have certain coverage in order to keep your monthly premium as low as possible. I began writing a series of blog articles covering the aspects of auto insurance to help explain and highlight the risks and benefits of various elective coverage options.
Previously, I wrote two articles on car insurance coverage one discussed full tort and limited tort and the other discussed underinsured and uninsured insurance coverage. In this article I will explain stacking, which is another important aspect of insurance coverage which many individuals are unaware of.
Stacking is an element of your auto insurance which arises in the context of underinsured/uninsured (UM/UIM) coverage. Stacking allows the insured person to increase the limits of his or her UM/UIM coverage by the number of cars insured under the policy. For example, if you are injured in an automobile accident and the driver at fault had an insufficient amount of insurance coverage to adequately compensate you for your injuries, then you would be permitted to recover from your own policy’s underinsured coverage (assuming you elected to carry UM/UIM coverage on your policy). Now lets say you had UM coverage of $100,000 per person but you had 3 vehicles insured under the same policy. If you elected to stack your coverage, you could recover up to $300,000 for your injuries from your own UM coverage. If you had chosen not to stack coverage, the limits of your recovery would be whatever amounts you could receive from the at-fault driver, plus the $100,000 that you could recover from your own UM coverage.
As you can see, stacking can significantly increase the limits of a recovery from an insurer. Generally, there is an added cost to stack your benefits, however, in the event you need the additional coverage, it is well worth the small increase in you monthly or yearly premium to add the stacking. Another good reason to carry this type of coverage is that we can’t control the type or amount of coverage that other drivers on the road carry. Many carry minimal amounts of liability coverage and, unfortunately, some driver’s elect to drive a vehicle without any coverage, despite that being against the law. One of the ways you can protect yourself against being significantly injured in a car accident and left with insufficient funds to compensate for our injuries, is to elect additional coverage under our own policies. At least then, you will have some certainty that coverage is available if you or a family member is involved in a serious accident.
Aaron Zeamer is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener School of Law and practices in a variety of areas including Personal Injury & Wrongful Death.