Illinois Court Finds Policy Limits for Tractor Trailers Stack for a Total of $7 Million
Insurance policy limits stacking is a legal concept where the policy limits of multiple vehicles are stacked together to provide additional coverage. Typically, an insurance policy will provide coverage for one vehicle. There are policies, however, that provide coverage for multiple vehicles within the same policy. Insurance companies try to write their multi-vehicle policies in a way that only provides the policy limits coverage for the vehicle involved in the crash. For example, if there were three cars with limits of $100,000 each, the insurance company would argue that only $100,000 is available to an injured person. The injured person would argue that he/she has access to $300,000 due to policy “stacking”.
Illinois courts have ruled in stacking cases for decades. We recently argued to a trial court in McLean County, Illinois that our client should be entitled to $7 million in bodily injury limits because there were seven different truck/trailers covered by the policy. The insurance company argued that all of the plaintiffs should only have access to a total of $1 million. We filed a declaratory judgment action asking the court to determine how much coverage existed. We then conducted discovery, which is an exchange of written questions, and answers, and then filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asking the court to rule in our favor. In our case, the amount of coverage was critical because our client was severely and permanently injured. In addition, as a result of the same crash, another passenger died and several others were injured.
Through extensive briefing and thorough oral argument, we argued that Owners Insurance failed to make it clear to the reader that only $1 million was available. Illinois law is clear that if an insurance policy is ambiguous, the policy must be read to the benefit of the insured. Here, the $1 million policy limits were listed next to each vehicle – they were listed seven times. Also, while the insurance company tried to include language to prevent stacking, when the policy was read as a whole, there were ambiguities. The trial court agreed with us, granted our Motion for Summary Judgment, and held that the insurance policy provided $7 million in coverage.
Owners Insurance has appealed this ruling to the Fourth District of Illinois. We have filed our appellate brief. Oral arguments will be scheduled shortly. The appellate ruling will be critical in Illinois. As we all know, tractor trailer crashes result in serious injuries and oftentimes, death. The injured individuals and their families need as much coverage as possible to help them move on with their lives.
Brent A. Sumner is the Managing Partner at Sumner Law Group, LLC. He focuses his practice exclusively on cases that involve serious personal injuries. Over the years, he has successfully represented thousands of individuals and families, recovering millions of dollars in compensation for injured accident victims.