Uninsured Motorist Coverage: What is the difference between stacked & non-stacked?

So you understand carrying Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage is a good idea, but now you’re faced with the decision of carrying stacked or non-stacked UM coverage.  What is the difference between the two?

Stacked UM coverage essentially increases your UM limits in relation to how many cars you insure.  Let’s say you have 3 cars, each with $100,000 UM coverage and you decide to stack this coverage. If you’re hit by a driver who doesn’t have adequate insurance or doesn’t carry insurance at all, you’ll be able to combine the coverage limits for each vehicle under that policy, giving you a coverage limit of $300,000 instead of your original $100,000.

Non-stacked UM coverage treats each vehicle’s coverage separately, no matter how many cars you insure. In other words, non-stacked UM is very much like “what you see is what you get,” meaning the UM limits shown on the declarations page for the vehicle is what is paid. If you’re struck by an uninsured driver, your policy would only cover expenses up to the UM limit you chose for the vehicle you were driving. In the example above, your policy would only give you coverage of $100,000.

Aside from the pure dollar difference in coverage the stacking provision provides, there is a significant coverage difference between the two options which could affect whether an insured can collect under the UM provision of the policy. At times, the stacked form will respond for a claim whereas the non-stacked form will not. This is because the non-stacked form has an exclusion stating that the insured can not collect UM while occupying a vehicle owned by the insured, but not covered for UM under the policy. This exclusion is not found on the stacked UM form. Therefore, there are times when the stacked UM will respond in a claim but the non-stacked form will not. Below are a few examples to help illustrate the coverage difference between the stacked and non-stacked UM coverage:

  • Larry obtains a second vehicle and does not call to report the new vehicle with the allowable 14-day grace period. Two months later, Larry is injured in the new vehicle in an accident by an uninsured motorist. Coverage under the non-stacked form will not respond; stacked UM would respond.
  • Larry is a “snowbird” who insures one vehicle in Florida under non-stacked UM and insures another vehicle up north. While up north, he is injured in that vehicle in an accident by an uninsured motorist. The Florida policy’s non-stacked coverage will not respond; stacked UM would have responded.
  • Larry owns a motorcycle, insures it separately under a motorcycle policy and has rejected UM on the motorcycle policy. In addition, he also owns a car and insures it with non-stacked UM. While on the motorcycle, he is injured in an accident by an uninsured motorist. The non-stacked UM coverage from his auto would not respond; stacked UM coverage from his auto policy would respond. (it is important to point out that for this very reason some insurance companies will not allow you to carry stacked UM coverage if you also own a motorcycle)
  • Larry insures one car on his auto policy and goes to a new car dealership to trade in his car for a new one. The dealer offers him a low amount on his trade, so Larry decides to keep the old car and sell it on his own. He purchases the new car and transfers the tag from his old car to the new one. He takes the old car to his house and runs an ad online to sell it, and at the same time deletes the old car from his insurance policy. If Larry occupies the old car and is injured, non-stacked UM will not respond; stacked UM would respond.
  • Larry and his wife own and insure their two cars here in central Florida. Their daughter attends college in Tallahassee and jointly owns her car with her father. The daughter has her own auto insurance policy separate from her mom and dad, and has rejected UM coverage on the policy. If Larry and his wife visit their daughter and occupy her car, their policy will not provide UM coverage for them if it is non-stacked; stacked UM would respond.

The reason that the stacked UM coverage applies in all of these situations is because of the absence of the exclusion for a vehicle owned but not insured. In all the examples above, the vehicle in question was owned by the insured but not covered for UM under the policy, therefore the non-stacked UM form would not respond.

Even on single car policies, there is a difference in UM coverage between the stacked and non-stacked. The fact that stacked UM is broader on single car risks is the reason that stacked UM costs more than non-stacked UM coverage on single car policies. It may be true that there is no difference in the amount of money that can be collected under the two forms, but there is a difference in whether the non-stacked form will respond at all under certain circumstances.

 

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