The purpose of car insurance is to provide a way for accident victims to receive compensation for the injuries they sustain in a Rhode Island car accident. Indeed, without the existence of insurance, Rhode Island car accident victims would not be able to recover adequate compensation for their injuries unless the at-fault party happened to have sufficient assets to cover the expenses.
Despite the requirement that all drivers maintain insurance on their vehicles, the reality is that in many Rhode Island car accidents, the victim’s injuries far exceed the policy maximum of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. In these situations, an accident victim can obtain underinsured/uninsured motorist (UIM) benefits under their own policy.
Under Rhode Island law, all insurance companies must offer UIM insurance when they write a policy. Additionally, all motorists must obtain a certain level of UIM insurance. Only in situations where a motorist obtains the minimum amount of liability insurance can they entirely waive UIM coverage.
One concept that frequently comes up when discussing Rhode Island UIM coverage is that of insurance stacking. Insurance stacking can refer to several different ways in which an accident victim can “stack,” or aggregate, the maximum recovery amount from several different UIM policies. Under Rhode Island General Laws § 27-7-2.1, an injury victim can “collect up to the aggregate amount of coverage for all of the vehicles insured” if:
- the insured has paid two or more separate premiums for UIM coverage in a single insurance policy; or
- the insured has several different policies with the same insurance company.
Importantly, this applies even if the language in the insurance contract indicates otherwise.
Of course, complications can arise when attempting to stack UIM policies. For example, in a 2017 Rhode Island appellate decision, the court determined that an accident victim was not able to stack two policies. In that case, both of the plaintiff’s policies were issued by the same agent, and under the “Progressive” brand. However, the policies were underwritten by separate and distinct companies, that just happened to be owned by the same parent corporation.
The plaintiff argued that his “reasonable expectation” that the two policies were issued by the same company should allow him to stack the two policies, although different companies technically underwrote the policies. However, the court rejected the plaintiff’s claim, explaining that the “plain language” of the statute required the policy be issued by the same insurance company. The fact that the policies were issued by two different insurance companies that were owned by the same parent company did not meet the statute’s definition of “same insurance company.”
Have You Been Injured in a Rhode Island Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Rhode Island car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you have sustained. Do not rely on a biased insurance company’s assessment of your claim. Instead, reach out to the dedicated Rhode Island personal injury attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo for assistance. At Bilodeau Capalbo, we have extensive experience dealing with difficult Rhode Island insurance disputes, whether it be following a car accident or homeowner’s claim. To learn more, call 401-300-4055 to schedule a free consultation today.