What is stacking insurance?
Stacking Uninsured or Underinsured motorist (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. States vary across the board when it comes to stacking.
Is stacking of insurance policies allowed in Tennessee?
Some state laws prohibit stacking of UM/UIM coverage, but many allow it in one form or another and Tennessee is a state that allows it in narrow instances. Presently, 30 states have statutes, rules or case law that allows stacking. However, 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. Therefore it is recommended to not rely on stacking even if your state has it when determining the appropriate insurance for you and your family.
Tennessee Code Annotated § 56-7-1201(d) (“§ 1201(d)”) allows insurance companies to offset their UM or UIM payments against other claims that a policy holder may receive. For example, if you are injured in an accident because of the negligent driving of an uninsured motorist, and you sue the uninsured motorist, the insurance company can offset their coverage by the amount you receive from the lawsuit.
The purpose of offsets is to prevent unjust enrichment where a policy holder may get paid twice. Also according to car insurance companies it keeps rates lower when stacking is not permissible.
The leading case for offsets in Tennessee is Poper ex rel. Poper v. Rollins In this case, Linda Poper died in a multi-car accident. Her husband brought several wrongful death suits against the other drivers, and he also brought a products liability claim against the manufacturer of his wife's car.
The husband settled with all the drivers except one, and he also settled with the manufacturer for a total of all settlements in the amount of $530,000. The remaining defendant had an insurance policy with a $10,000 limit. Instead of suing the other driver or his insurance company, the husband filed suit against his deceased wife's insurance carrier for the UIM coverage in her policy in the amount of $100,000.
The insurance company moved to dismiss the claim, stating that § 1201(d) worked as a cap for the amount a policy holder could claim. The trial court and appellate court agreed, dismissing the case.
In Tennessee, stacking is permissible of multiple tortfeasors policies. For example, if two other vehicles were half responsible for the injuries you sustained those two policies could be stacked to make you whole.
Stacking and Other States
Also, in many of the states that allow stacking, car insurance companies are nonetheless permitted to contract around the state law (by inserting policy language that prevents policyholders from stacking UM/UIM coverage.) So while your state might permit stacking, if your policy expressly forbids it and the states procedure was followed precisely, you won't be able to stack your benefits. Other states do not allow insurance companies to contract around the state legislation.
In some states there is 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.
Potential Stacking Examples Depending on States Rules
Another example: 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.
Another example, 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. Tennessee does not allow for this kind of stacking where Georgia does unless the insured expressly waives said coverage in writing.
Last example, 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. Once again in Tennessee stacking will not be allowed but in Georgia it is unless expressly waived.
What should I do if I have been in an Accident and want to know if Stacking will Apply?
That is easy! Contact Betz and Baril at 865-888-8888 and talk to our team of experienced accident attorneys to make sure you leave nothing behind that you deserve.