Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Denies Plaintiffs’ Attempt to Stack Underinsured Motorist Limits

The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals released a decision earlier this month, affirming a U.S. District Court decision that denied the plaintiffs’ attempt to collect on an underinsured motorist claim. The plaintiffs attempted to aggregate the policy limits for underinsured motorist coverage in a case filed against their own insurance company after an accident in which they suffered more damages than the settlement they accepted from the other driver’s insurance company would compensate them for.

The Court ruled that the insurance company is not required to allow clients to stack the policy limits of multiple covered vehicles to increase the coverage limit for damages caused to a single vehicle in a single accident. The Court further ruled that if the insurance company does allow the policy limits to aggregate based on the number of covered vehicles, they may correspondingly aggregate the setoff payment amounts received from the at-fault party’s insurance company against each vehicle’s policy limit, meaning that the plaintiffs will not recover more than the policy limit for a single vehicle.

The Plaintiffs’ Accident and Their Insurance Company’s Response

In 2010, the plaintiffs, a husband and wife, were involved in a car accident with another vehicle and alleged $200,000 in damages against the other driver. The other driver’s insurance company offered a settlement of $100,000, which was their single-vehicle policy limit. The plaintiffs accepted the settlement and made an underinsured motorist claim against their own insurance company to recover the other $100,000 in damages they had suffered from the accident.

Their underinsured motorist protection had a policy limit of $100,000 per vehicle, which was applied after any award received by the other insurance company was deducted. As a result of this, the plaintiffs’ request was denied. Their insurance company would only allow them a total of $100,000 in damages, which was entirely set off by the $100,000 they had already received from the other insurance company.

Plaintiffs Seek a Declaratory Judgment Allowing Them to Aggregate the Limits for Each Covered Vehicle

The plaintiffs challenged the insurance company’s response in court, asking that the underinsured-motorist policy limit be increased to the aggregate total of the four vehicles that were covered under their policy, and allowing them to seek $400,000 in total damages for the accident. The insurance company responded by pointing to the language in the policy itself, demonstrating that the maximum amount to be recovered for one vehicle is the limit of $100,000, which must be set off by the amount actually received by the other insurance company.

The plaintiffs argued that the language of the policy was unclear and that they should be given the benefit of the doubt and be allowed to aggregate the limits. The court looked to the plain reading of the policy, as well as other state and federal insurance rules and practices, and determined that the plaintiffs cannot stack the maximums for different vehicles covered under the same policy for one accident claim. The court went on to rule that even if the limits could be aggregately increased as the plaintiffs requested, the insurance company would be able to separately apply the $100,000 setoff that the plaintiffs had received to each $100,000 stackable policy limit, which would exhaust the plaintiffs’ underinsured motorist coverage without making any additional payments.

Have You Been in an Accident?

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by an uninsured or underinsured driver, the Ocala accident attorneys at the Dean Firm can help reduce the confusion and give you a realistic idea of what type of settlement or award you may expect from your lawsuit. Insurance policies can be extremely confusing, and different courts across the country interpret different parts of the law in slightly different ways. Hiring a skilled Florida personal injury attorney can reduce the headaches and uncertainty that accident victims commonly face when struggling to obtain compensation for their injuries and losses. The experienced accident attorneys at the Dean Firm know how to get the most for our clients from their insurance companies. We represent clients in most personal injury and wrongful death cases, including accidents involving uninsured or underinsured drivers. Call us today at (352) 387-8700 or schedule a consultation through our website today.

More Blog Posts:

Deerfield Beach Accident Involving Car and Pick-Up Truck Kills One Child, Injures Several Others, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 15, 2015.

Florida Hit-and-Run Driver Sentenced to 20 Years in Jail, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published July 14, 2015.

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