Car insurance, it seems, gets more and more confusing every day. Every time you go looking for auto coverage you probably hear or see a new term that adds to this confusion.
A typical example of such terminology is stacked and unstacked uninsured motorist coverage. Basically, uninsured motorists, or UM, insurance covers you if you get into an accident with a driver that has no car insurance.
In most cases, uninsured motorist coverage covers the cost of bodily injuries; that is, medical coverage for those injured in a car accident. In states like Michigan that have so-called no fault car insurance, every driver that is involved in a wreck is considered liable for damages. In most states, only the individual responsible for the accident is liable for damages.
The bottom line is that you could be liable for injuries and other damages even if the other driver has no insurance. Uninsured motorist insurance is supposed to protect you if such a person hires a personal injury attorney and tries to sue you. The concept sounds simple, but it really isn’t, because there are two kinds of uninsured motorist coverage there.
Stacked vs. Unstacked Uninsured Motorist Coverage
The most common form of such coverage—unstacked uninsured motorist coverage—only covers one vehicle. A stacked policy covers more than one vehicle. A person with a stacked policy can add several vehicles to her policy if she wishes.
An unstacked policy only covers one vehicle at a time. Some policies only cover the vehicle that you are driving while others just cover a specific vehicle.
The problem with unstacked uninsured motorist insurance is that you might not have uninsured coverage if you are not driving your vehicle. If you are driving a rental car or a friend’s vehicle and you get into a wreck with an uninsured driver, you could be found personally liable for damages. A stacked policy could give you coverage while driving another vehicle.
The real problem is that uninsured motorist coverage differs from state to state. Stacked coverage is available in some states but not in others. That means you may only be able to buy unstacked coverage.
There are also some states, such as Florida, where uninsured motorist insurance is not required. That means you can buy a policy that doesn’t have it, but guess what? You can still be sued by an uninsured motorist in Florida.
The lesson here is simple: Read the policy before you buy it. Make sure you are getting the coverage you need and don’t take the word of an insurance agent or insurance company. Any verbal promises that they make are not binding.
Your Driving Habits Determine Your Insurance Needs
Read the policy and see if it meets your needs. Your auto insurance needs are determined by your driving habits. If you almost always drive just one car, you should be able to get by with an unstacked policy. Remember, you can always buy rental car insurance if you have to use a rental.
If you regularly drive more than one car, look for a policy with stacked uninsured motorist insurance. If it’s available in your state, it can be a pretty good deal and give you additional protection.
You should seriously consider changing your insurance if you change your driving habits. If you buy a second car or start driving somebody else’s vehicle on a regular basis, you should definitely try to get a stacked policy.
Even in states where stacked uninsured motorist coverage is not available, there are other kinds of coverage that you might need. Many policies have rental car insurance for example. If you drive a lot of rental cars, that coverage can be a pretty good deal.
The difference between stacked and unstacked uninsured motorist insurance is a good example of why buying the minimum car insurance available in your state can be a very bad idea. In many states, the law requires a minimum amount of insurance that doesn’t provide the coverage the average person needs.
Are You Getting the Coverage You Pay For?
Many insurance companies sell cut-rate policies that provide that coverage and nothing else. Such policies may not protect you if you get in an accident that leads to a lawsuit. Paying extra for certain kinds of coverage, such as stacked uninsured motorist insurance, will protect you in such a situation.
Taking the time to understand what your car insurance policy actually says and what it actually covers is always a good idea. There are many people out there, including a lot of individuals with unstacked car insurance, that aren’t getting the coverage they think they are paying for.