What happens if you are injured in a Rhode Island auto accident and the at fault party’s bodily injury (“BI”) insurance limits are inadequate to cover your losses?

The Law: “Stacking Policies”
Rhode Island law requires drivers to carry at least $25,000.00 per person/$50,000.00 per accident bodily injury coverage. R.I. Gen. Laws § 31-31-7. If your damages exceed the applicable BI limits, then you may have coverage pursuant to the “Uninsured/Underinsured” (“UIM”) section on your own auto policy.

Under this scenario, “UIM” coverage kicks in when the at-fault party has some insurance but not enough to cover your losses (he or she is “underinsured”). Our Rhode Island Supreme Court has stated that the “purpose of the underinsured-motorist-coverage statute is to provide an incentive for Rhode Island insureds to purchase sufficient uninsured/underinsured-motorist coverage to protect themselves from financially irresponsible drivers from whom an insured is legally entitled to recover.”

Rhode Island law uniquely helps the victims of accidents caused by underinsured drivers with a system called “stacking.” “Stacking” means that the UIM limits can be “stacked” on top of the BI limits in order to make the injured person whole. See e.g. R.I. Gen. Laws § 27-7-2.1.

The Case: $117,000.00 Settlement In Highway Collision
Recently, the law on stacking came into play in our office. Our client was a passenger involved in a Rhode Island highway collision caused by an at fault driver who carried a minimum $25,000.00 BI policy. Unfortunately, this was a serious collision including air bag deployment and heavy damage to the vehicles. Rescue transported our client to the emergency room where the physician diagnosed, amongst other injuries, a complex foot fracture.

During our client’s recovery, she missed time from work resulting in thousands of dollars in lost wages and also incurred medical expenses totaling over the BI limits. Fortunately, our client had a UIM policy that provided $100,000.00 in UIM coverage.

Upon our client’s recovery, we pursued the case. In doing so, we analyzed our client’s damages and obtained the BI policy limits. Next, we proceeded against the UIM policy and that insurer ultimately agreed to a settlement based on same. In sum, through the Rhode Island auto insurance law on stacking, our firm was able to recover a gross $117,000.00 settlement on behalf of our injured client.