I would like to update information on the law in Pennsylvania which requires insurance companies to offer uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage and, depending on the situation, to offer the ability to “stack” these coverages.
PA Supreme Court Clears Way for Insurance Stacking
A new PA Supreme Court case, Gallagher v GEICO, that was argued by James Haggarty, Esquire on January 24, 2019, does away with the “Household Exclusion” in motor vehicle policies.
This means that if you followed my advice and purchased uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage on your bikes, and if your cars are also insured by the same company (i.e. State Farm, Westfield, GEICO, etc.) as your motorcycle, you can “stack” your UM/UIM coverage on all of your vehicles.
The only company that allowed you to do this prior to the new ruling was State Farm. Which as many of you know, is the company I have always recommended.
How Does This Work?
Here is an example.
If you have two automobiles and two bikes all insured with the same insurance company, even if they are separate policies, the amount of UM/UIM coverage you choose (and I always recommend $100,000) would now quadruple. So $100,000 of coverage would now become $400,000 – but only if you chose the “stacking” option.
So when you buy your insurance, whether through an agent or online – never sign any stacking waivers. Pay the extra few dollars – it’s worth it!
When purchasing or changing your insurance coverage, keep in mind that your UM/UIM coverage can never be more than your liability coverage so in order to carry $100,000 in UM/UIM you must carry $100,000 in liability. You can buy down your UM/UIM but doing so only hurts you in the long run.
In simple terms, if you want full UM/UIM coverage, you have to pay for it.
If you have more than one vehicle on a single policy of insurance, you are entitled to double or triple (“stack”) the amount of UM/UIM benefits available, depending on the number of vehicles you own. The only way to give up this right is to sign a waiver indicating that you wish to reject the ability to stack the coverages.
If you have signed these waivers of “stacking” then the prohibition on stacking the coverages, whether your vehicles are insured with either one or two different insurance companies, has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Limited Tort Law
The other option that will hurt you is “Limited Tort”. In Pennsylvania this coverage only applies to automobiles; motorcycles are automatically deemed “Full Tort”.
So if you choose “Limited Tort” and are involved in an accident while driving your car, and it is someone else’s fault, in order to make a claim against their insurance company you would have to be seriously hurt (i.e. death, disfigurement or broken bones).
If you sustained minor injuries (i.e. strain and sprain) you would not be able to be compensated for those injuries or your pain and suffering unless you chose “Full Tort.
Bottom line – never sign waivers rejecting full tort!
Pay the extra money and reserve your right to pursue a claim for damages no matter what your injuries are. Remember, this only applies to auto policies – motorcycle policies automatically provide “Full Tort”.
Motorcycle Insurance Companies
There are several companies that now provide motorcycle insurance. You see them advertising constantly on TV – GEICO, Progressive and The General. I advise you steer clear of these companies.
In my experience, the companies that treat you more fairly are State Farm, Chubb, Erie, Westfield, Rider and Dairyland.
But to benefit from this new Supreme Court ruling – your autos and motorcycles must be insured with the same carrier!
So if you have separate carriers – I suggest you immediately switch over to one or the other – or a new company altogether.
Which Coverages This Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Recommends
If you ever find yourself in a motorcycle accident, you will want to have coverage you need to ensure that you are financially protected.
Many people don’t typically cross paths with a motorcycle injury attorney. Whenever I give talks to motorcycle clubs, I am asked what insurance coverages I would recommend so here they all are:
- Bodily Injury Liability – this coverage protects you financially if you injure some one else and therefore, at a minimum, I would recommend $100,000/$300,000 per accident.
- Property Damage – this is the coverage that will pay for someone else’s property if you are involved in a collision. If you ride in group I would suggest a minimum of $50,000 of this coverage.
- Medical Coverage – Be advised that most motorcycle policies do not offer this coverage but if you do want it, most will sell it to you but usually in an amount of no more than $5,000.
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage – this is relatively self explanatory however where it becomes tricky is that although you may have $100,000 in Bodily Injury Coverage, many people still have not taken the opportunity to raise their limits of uninsured/underinsured coverage to an amount that is equal to the amount of Bodily Injury coverage that they chose. In other words, if you have a $100,000 in Bodily Injury coverage, you are absolutely entitled by law to have the same amount of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. I urge you to check your Declaration Pages right now and if the amount of UM/UIM coverage does not equal the amount of Bodily Injury coverage, call your agent and immediately raise your limits.
- Stacking – stacking simply means if you have more than one vehicle, it gives you the right to literally “stack” your uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits onto any other vehicle that you may be injured in. For example, if you are a passenger in someone else’s vehicle and you are hit by an uninsured motorist, you could get the amount of uninsured motorist coverage and then you can “stack” onto your motorcycles uninsured/underinsured coverage – in essence “stacking” one policy onto the other. In order to get this, the vehicle insurance policies must be with the same company.
- Collision/Comprehensive/Fire/Theft/Auto – most people are familiar with these coverages however not everybody has them. If you have a motorcycle that you can not afford to replace or pay for repairs, you must carry collision coverage. The same goes for any other damage caused by anything other than a collision such as, fire, theft or vandalism. If you can not afford to repair or replace the damage out of your own pocket, then you must carry comprehensive coverage.
Motorcycle Accident Lawyer’s Dream
Once in a long while a Pennsylvania motorcycle lawyer catches a break in being able to fully compensate a client for injuries. A few years back I was hired to represent a client in a very serious Pennsylvania motorcycle accident who had two bikes and three automobiles all insured with Erie Insurance, and all on the same policy. To my surprise, when I read the policy, sure enough, all five vehicles were eligible for stacking!!!!
In practical terms, my client went from having $100,000 in un/underinsured coverage to $500,000 in coverage – all at the cost of less then $100 a year!