Delaware Car Accident Laws & Resources
From Wilmington to Ocean City to Salisbury, there are thousands of miles of roads in Delaware, despite its small size. You can driver from downtown Dover to the scenic Brandywine River Valley and down to popular Rehoboth Beach. Delaware roads are driven by more than 700,000 licensed drivers each day who drive approximately 10,000 miles per year. As they drive where they need to go, they get in several serious and sometimes fatal accidents. Wherever you visit or live in the First State, it is important to carry enough auto insurance. It also is key to understand the regulations and laws that govern driving in this state. If you are in an accident, you will have the knowledge to know what to do.
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Statistics and Notable Car Accident Lawsuits in Delaware
According to a 2017 news report, more highway education and enforcement efforts in the First State have contributed to a drop in fatal accidents, per the Office of Highway Safety in the state. But national data shows the state still is deadlier than much of the country.
The report found that 120 people died in Delaware traffic crashes in 2016, while 133 died the year before. An average of 113 have died each year in the state since 2008. The bottom line is fatalities are down 10%, but it is difficult to determine how much public media campaigns have helped, compared to law enforcement efforts.
The state’s Office of Highway Safety has been providing alcohol and speed detection equipment to officers across Delaware. Also, the office has been paying for officers to do targeted safety patrols on highways where there are a lot of accidents. Government funds also provided tubes for blood draws for police officers, speed equipment, speed trailers and laser speed detectors and radars. While much progress has been made to reduce the number of fatalities on Delaware roads, the statistics make clear that much work still needs to be done.
Data shows that 16 to 19 year olds were 6% of fatal accidents in 2014 in the state, which were the most recent federal stats for this state. This was higher than the national average.
The recent drop in fatalities was despite there being more drivers on the roads in 2016. This was due to lower gas prices and an improvement in the economy. The decrease in deaths was particularly noticeable among pedestrians. A total of 29 died in Delaware in 2016, compared to 36 the year before. Even with the drop, the highways of Delaware are still among the most dangerous for walkers. Most of the pedestrian fatality problem is in the northern part of the state. It is believed this problem could be reduced if there were more crosswalks added in New Castle County, which has wide highways that are hard for pedestrians to cross safely. It is unclear if these changes will be made due to budget constraints.
An unusual wrongful death lawsuit that has been settled recently in Delaware involved a University of Delaware student who was fatally injured by a bicyclist. While this was not a motor vehicle accident, bicyclists are required to abide by most of the same laws as regular drivers. The suit was filed in Delaware Supreme Court in February 2016. The suit claimed the university was negligent by failing to properly protect student Matthew Rosin, 19, who was attending an outdoor campus event. Rosin was hit by a biker and was knocked out when he fell backward onto the pavement. He struck his head. After he had several surgeries to reduce brain swelling, he passed away on March 26, 2016.
The lawsuit alleged the university had failed to establish rules that disallowed bikers from being on sidewalks. The suit also noted that while this crash was the most serious, it was not the first one to occur on campus between a biker and pedestrian.
The family sought financial damages including pain and suffering, mental anguish, the cost of filing suit, and interest. The suit also stated the family wanted the university to change its policy so that bikers were not allowed to ride on sidewalks.
It is unknown the exact amount of the financial settlement in this wrongful death lawsuit as it was kept confidential.
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Auto Insurance Requirements in Delaware
There are laws in Delaware that require you to have a minimum amount of auto insurance. If you do not carry this level of insurance, you can be heavily fined or even put in jail if you have been in a serious accident. Delaware features a tort system, meaning if you are liable in an accident, you may be sued for both actual and economic damages, as well as pain and suffering.
The minimum level of auto insurance Delaware is:
- $15,000 for bodily injury per person per accident
- $30,000 for bodily injury for each person per accident
- $10,000 in property damage liability
You are not required in Delaware to carry additional insurance coverage such as personal injury, underinsured and uninsured driver coverage or comprehensive or collision coverage. But if you own a lot of assets, it could be worth your while to supplement the minimum coverage with additional insurance to protect yourself from serious monetary loss if you are responsible for a major accident.
Delaware Accident Settlement Taxes
So, you have received a personal injury settlement in Delaware. You probably feel a major sense of accomplishment, as you should. But one thing to be aware of is the possibility of needing to pay taxes at the state and federal levels on some parts of the settlement.
Generally, any settlement money that you receive for your physical injuries, such as for medical bills, pain and suffering etc., is not taxable as income. However, be aware that the key part of this point is ‘physical injuries.’ Your injuries need to be physical in nature for you to not pay taxes on the money. If you receive compensation for mental pain and suffering ONLY in your settlement, this will be taxable by Delaware and by Uncle Sam.
Also, if you receive punitive damages, these are always taxable at both levels. Punitive damages are received not for compensation for your injuries but to simply punish the defendant. This is extra compensation that is always taxable.
Next, if you take a medical expense tax deduction, that portion of your medical bill compensation would be taxable as well.
Last, back pay for lost wages is usually taxable as income as well.
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Negligence Laws in Delaware
Negligence laws in Delaware changed in 1984. That year, the state adopted the doctrine of comparative negligence. This simply means that fault in an accident is apportioned. For example, if you suffer $50,000 of damages in an accident but are found by the jury to be 10% at fault, your damages will be reduced by $5000.
However, there is a catch in the laws of Delaware. If your level of fault is 50% or more for the accident, you cannot recover damages at all. Because of this quirk in the law, it is important to hire a good personal injury attorney to argue on your behalf. You do not want to be found 50% responsible for an accident if you have serious accident injuries, as you will not be able to recover compensation at all.
Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Delaware
This state has a deadline or statute of limitations to file a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident. According to Delaware Code Title 10, Section 8119, you have two years to request the state courts for a civil remedy for any personal injury you suffered. So, you must file your lawsuit within two years of the accident date to be able to receive damages. A two year deadline also is in effect for any property damage, such as to your vehicle or anything inside that was damaged. Further, a family has two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit from the date of the person’s death.
It always is advisable to file your lawsuit as soon as possible after the accident so your attorney has time to collect the necessary evidence. If you file near the deadline, many good attorneys may decline your case.
Other Delaware Driving and Accident Laws
There are several pertinent laws to be aware of if are driving/living in Delaware:
- The state has banned the use of all handheld electronic devices when you are driving. These include phones, laptops, tablets and computers. Drivers also may not read, write or send text messages or use the Internet as they drive. The first offense results in a $106 fine, while subsequent fines are $350.
- There is a keep right law in the state that designates the left lane may only be used for passing. Fines of up to $230 can be imposed by law enforcement.
- The aggressive driving laws of this state define aggressive driving as unsafe change of lane, disregarding a traffic light, failure to stop, following too closely, passing on the shoulder, speeding and passing a stopped school bus. The first offense carries a fine of $100 to $300, and you may be required to attend a driver education course at your expense.
No punitive damages can be awarded in personal injury lawsuits in the state of Delaware.
Delaware Car Accident Resources
If you have been in a car accident in this state, it is important to be aware of the following important resources, so you can act appropriately after the incident:
- If you have suffered serious injuries, it is important to understand what your legal claim or lawsuit could be worth. While every case differs, it is possible for an attorney to review similar cases in your area with similar injuries to get a rough idea of what the case could be worth. At the Lawsuit Info Center, we can assist you to get connected to a knowledgeable attorney in Delaware that can gauge the potential monetary value of the case.
- If you are in a Delaware car accident, the accident generally needs to be reported to the police. If the accident caused death or injury, or more than $500 in damages, a police report must be filed. This is the automobile accident report that must be filed.
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