Dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be a trying and difficult time. Devastating injuries can quickly effect your daily life, your ability to work and cause unnecessary and burdensome medical bills. But what if the driver who caused the car accident doesn’t have insurance? Luckily, the law protects individuals who have been injured by the negligence of an uninsured motorist. Missouri law requires every insurance policy to carry uninsured motorist coverage, whether you carry a full coverage policy or liability only. This allows the person injured by the uninsured driver to access their own coverage to help them through this trying time.
In Missouri, the case law on this topic is very well established. In some cases, an individual may be able to “stack” his uninsured motorist coverage available under all polices applicable at the time of the crash. Under Missouri law, this is commonly referred to as stacking. Stacking ‘refers to an insured’s ability to obtain multiple insurance coverage benefits for an injury either from more than one policy, as where the insured has two or more separate vehicles under separate policies, or from multiple coverage’s provided for within a single policy, as when an insured has one policy which covers more than one vehicle”. Niswonger v. Farm Bureau Town & Country Ins. Co., 992 S.W.2d 308, 313 (Mo. Ct. App. 1999).
In Otto v. Farmers Ins. Co., 558 S.W.2d 713, 718 (Mo. Ct. App. 1977), the Missouri Court of Appeals cautioned that “uninsured motorist insurance should not be confused as inuring to a particular vehicle as in the case of automobile liability insurance. To the contrary, uninsured motorist insurance inures to an individual insured for bodily injury inflicted by the tortious act of an uninsured motorist.” See also Bernardo v. Northland Ins. Co., 45 F.3d 272, 274 (8th Cir. 1995) (interpreting Otto as holding that “restrictions limiting uninsured motorist coverage to designation of a particular car are invalid under Missouri law …”).
Policy provisions that seek to limit stacking of uninsured motorist policies will not be enforced if they violate the public policy expressed in the financial responsibility law. Cameron Mutual Ins. Co. v. Madden, 533 S.W.2d 538 (Mo. 1976). Cameron held that, although the insurance contract limited uninsured motorist recovery to only the highest value of uninsured motorist coverage for one vehicle, such a limiting provision violated public policy as expressed in the financial responsibility law. “Missouri public policy flowing from this statute requires that multiple uninsured motorist coverage’s must be allowed to be stacked, and prevents insurers from including policy language denying such stacking.” Niswonger, 992 S.W.2d at 313 (citing Cameron). Whether multiple vehicles are covered under one policy or under separate policies is irrelevant to the question of stacking. Cameron, 533 S.W.2d at 545.
It is clear under Missouri law that ‘stacking’ of multiple uninsured motorist policies and/or numerous uninsured motorist coverage’s under one policy is permitted.
For example, a client of ours was riding a motorcycle which carried uninsured motorist coverage of $25,000.00. In addition, the client carried uninsured motorist coverage of $50,000.00 on two other automobiles covered under a separate policy. In that matter, there was a total of $125,000.00 of uninsured motorist coverage applicable to his claim, which we were able to collect from the insurance companies.
How Do I Determine If I Have an MO Uninsured Case?
To best determine if you have an uninsured or “UM” case, it is important to consult with a car accident attorney. St. Louis Attorney Tony Bruning has over 35 years of experience dealing with insurance companies and can provide the necessary guidance to ensure you are maximizing your potential recovery. Contact us today at 314-735-8100 for a free consultation. Call The Bruning Law Firm today!
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