When you are injured due to another driver’s negligence, an important aspect of your recovery is determining which insurance policies provide coverage for your damages. This can become incredibly complicated where multiple policies are involved and where those policies include underinsured motorist provisions. Our dedicated team of Chicago car accident lawyers is ready to help you ensure that you receive the maximum payments possible following a painful and unnecessary accident.
In a recent appellate opinion, the court considered the application of an underinsured motorist policy. The plaintiff filed an underinsured motorist claim against an insurer seeking coverage for injuries that he sustained while driving one of his employer’s 16 vehicles, all of which were covered by policies issued by the insurer. The plaintiff settled with the defendant driver who caused the accident for the defendant’s policy limits of $20,000. The plaintiff then sent notice to the insurer of the underinsured motorist claim and seeking the policy limits. The plaintiff argued that the coverage for all of the 16 policies should be stacked, amounting to $4 million in total available underinsured motorist coverage.
In response, the insurer argued that only $250,000 was available, constituting the policy for one of the vehicles. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The plaintiff argued that he should be permitted to stack the coverages while the insurer argued that the policy had clear language that prohibited stacking and that because the premiums were listed separately for each vehicle the anti-stacking aspect was clear. The trial court concluded that the plaintiff’s interpretation that called for stacking all 16 policies was correct. The insurer appealed.
On review, the insurer argued that the language in the policies was clear and unambiguous regarding its antistacking provisions. The appellate court concluded otherwise, however, noting first that the policies do not contain any language referring to stacking. The court also noted that antistacking clauses do not contravene public policy and that only those policies that have clear and unambiguous terms will be given effect. Reading the policy in its totality, including the declarations page, the policy was ambiguous regarding whether all 16 policies could be stacked because the declarations page included references to all 16 policies.
The appellate court rejected the insurer’s argument that although there was no reference to stacking, the policy included a standard antistacking clause. In any instance where an insurance policy contains inconsistent provisions, courts are required to construe the policy in favor of the insured. In sum, because there was an ambiguity in the declarations page, the lower court did not err in concluding that it was correct in aggregating the policy limits. Had the policy not contained an ambiguity in the declarations page, the court may have reversed the lower court’s decision.
If you were injured in a car accident, you probably have countless questions about your right to recovery and how to communicate with insurance companies to protect your rights and interests. At Therman Law Offices, we will assist you with all aspects of your claim including gathering evidence, obtaining documentation, and ensuring that you receive the full amount that you deserve. To schedule your free consultation call us at 775-545-8849 or contact us online.