Stacked vs. Unstacked Auto Insurance

Buying insurance for a vehicle can be complicated, particularly when we start looking at the definition of “stacked” versus “unstacked” auto insurance.

A stacked insurance plan is one in which an insurance policy can combine the uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage limits across multiple vehicles or policies in an effort to increase how much the insurer will pay for a claim. An unstacked insurance policy refers to coverage limits that are not combined across various policies or vehicles.

Examining Stacked Auto Insurance

Stacked and unstacked insurance only comes into play when we are discussing uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM), which individuals typically purchase together. It is important to point out that uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is not required of drivers in California. However, it is strongly recommended that all drivers consider purchasing this type of insurance to help protect them.

Uninsured motorist coverage is designed to kick in if you are struck by a driver without insurance, and underinsured motorist coverage is designed to kick in if you are struck by a driver who does not have enough insurance coverage to pay for your damages.

In some places around the country, individuals can “stack” their underinsured motorist coverage on top of a defendant’s insurance coverage to help to pay for damages in the event their losses exceed the total coverage of the at-fault driver. However, California prohibits the stacking of insurance policies. This means that a person’s underinsured motorist insurance policy can only be used if their own coverage amount is greater than the total amount of coverage the at-fault driver had.

For example, let us suppose that the defendant who caused an accident carried only the minimum coverage required under California’s insurance laws ($15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident). If a person is struck by this driver and sustains $20,000 worth of medical bills, they would not be able to use their underinsured motorist coverage unless their coverage exceeded the defendant’s $15,000 amount.

Other states around the country do allow the stacking of underinsured motorist coverages. This allows those who sustained injuries to use their underinsured motorist coverage regardless of how much insurance coverage the other driver has. As long as the at-fault driver has insurance, individuals can use their underinsured motorist coverage if their damages exceed the other person’s policy limits.

Working With an Attorney to Recover Compensation

If you or somebody you care about has been injured in an accident caused by another driver, but their insurance isn’t sufficient to pay for your damages, you need to work with an attorney immediately. A skilled lawyer will examine all avenues available to you to secure compensation. In some situations, it may be necessary to file a civil personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver to recover compensation from that person’s personal assets. The personal injury lawsuit process and recovering compensation from insurance carriers can be complicated, but an attorney will handle every aspect of your claim on your behalf.

Additionally, we strongly encourage you to examine your own insurance policy and consider purchasing higher amounts of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.