Can Multiple Uninsured Motorist Policies Cover the Same Car Accident?
Uninsured motorist (UM) benefits provide compensation for car accident victims when the person who actually caused the accident lacks sufficient insurance. In some cases, however, there may be multiple auto insurance policies–and thus, multiple UM provisions–that may cover a given accident. Does this mean the victim is entitled to recover benefits under all applicable UM policies?
Judge: Tennessee’s Anti-Stacking Rules Also Cover Out-of-State UM Policies
A federal judge here in Tennessee recently confronted this question. This particular case arose in the aftermath of a tragic January 2018 auto accident. A driver crashed into a Chevrolet Tahoe containing seven people. The parents of one of the Tahoe passengers, who died in the accident, subsequently sued the driver of the other vehicle.
Since this other driver presumably lacks the insurance to pay for any potential damages to the parents–as well as the other victims who filed their own lawsuits–the issue of UM coverage has come up. Specifically, the owners of the Tahoe had a UM policy issued in Tennessee through Nationwide. But the parents also had their own UM coverage from Liberty Mutual and GEICO, under which they previously received a total of $300,000.
This prompted Nationwide to file its own lawsuit in federal court, asking a judge to find that the parents have already recovered the “full amount of UM benefits for bodily injury recoverable under Tennessee law,” and are therefore entitled to nothing under the Tahoe owners’ policy.
On January 29, 2020, U.S. District Judge Samuel H. Mays, Jr., granted Nationwide’s request. The judge noted that no Tennessee state court had previously addressed the specific issue presented by this case. That is, whether someone is “disallowed” from seeking UM benefits under a Tennessee insurance policy when they have “already recovered up to the limits of the highest applicable UM policy, including recoveries under policies issued in other states.”
Here is what this means. The Tahoe’s UM policy provides for a maximum of $300,000 in UM benefits. The parents’ policies paid out $250,000 and $50,000 in UM benefits respectively. Since the parents already recovered a total of $300,000 from their policies–the limit of the Tahoe policy–they were not allowed to recover any additional UM benefits under Tennessee law.
Basically, Tennessee does not allow parties to “stack” UM coverage. When multiple policies may apply to the same accident, the policy with the highest amount of UM coverage sets the upper limit of a victim’s recovery. And in this case, Judge Mays said Tennessee’s law is not restricted to policies issued in this state. Out-of-state UM policies may also be considered.
Speak with a Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Dealing with insurance is never a pleasant matter, especially after an accident that resulted in the death of a family matter. An experienced Knoxville car accident attorney can assist you in sorting out this and other legal matters. Contact the offices of Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team today.