Florida Federal Court Decision Explains “Stacking” Of Insurance Policies

Last fall, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida issued a decision in the case of Brannan v. Geico that discussing the issue of “stacking” limits in auto insurance policies and how such provisions can limit an insured’s recovery in the he or she is injured in a motor vehicle accident. Our Miami car accident lawyers have extensive knowledge on this topic.

“Stacking” insurance is a way in which an insured can increase the payment limits of his or her auto insurance by combining the underinsured and uninsured injury coverage for multiple vehicles. For example, if a motorist had $50,000 underinsured/$100,000 uninsured coverage on two vehicles, the stacked coverage for both cars would be $100,000/$200,000.

In the event the motorist was involved in an accident with an underinsured/uninsured driver, he or she could receive compensation up to the stacked policy limits of $100,000/$200,000. Stacked insurance coverage generally costs significantly more than non-stacked coverage, sometimes even more than twice as much.

The stacking provisions of Florida Statutes 627.727 provides that “[u]ninsured motorist protection does not inure to a particular motor vehicle, but instead protects the named insured or insured members of his family against bodily injury inflicted by the negligence of any uninsured motorist under whatever conditions, locations, or circumstances any of such insureds happen to be in at the time.”

In Brannan, the plaintiff, James Brannan, was injured in a motorcycle accident in October of 2010, with an uninsured driver. At the time of the accident, Brannan had two insurance policies with Geico, a motorcycle insurance policy, and an automobile insurance policy for three cars. Geico offered to pay Brannan the policy limit of $10,000 under the motorcycle policy, but Brannan maintained that he was entitled to stack his coverage under the automobile policy, thereby raising the limit to $300,000.

Brannan sued Geico, claiming he was entitled to the stacked coverage. In response, Geico argued that the provisions of the auto policy excluded coverage for the motorcycle.  In agreeing with Geico’s position, the District Court opined that the language of the auto policy was clear, and the court would not extend “the coverage afforded beyond that plainly set forth in the insurance contract.”

The Court explained that, although uninsured motorist policies normally automatically stack for each premium under Florida law, Brannan executed a “non-stacking” agreement in exchange for a lower premium. Brannan specifically agreed that his coverage would be limited to the vehicle he was driving in the event of an accident.

Brannan further argued that Geico negligently failed to advise him regarding the non-stacking provision under the motorcycle policy. The Court rejected this argument, citing Fla. Stat. § 627.727(1), which establishes a presumption that an insured’s acceptance of a non-stacking provision is informed, knowing in the event the insured signs a written acknowledgement of the limitation.

The Miami accident attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured in car accidents.  If you or someone you know has been injured by the negligence of another, contact the Miami car accident attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A today.

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