On this page, our personal injury lawyers will look at Delaware car accident lawsuits. We will review the key points of law relevant to auto accidents in Delaware and we will explain what the average settlement value of these cases are based on prior settlements and verdicts.
Delaware Personal Injury Law & Settlements
About Car Accidents in Delaware
Geographically, Delaware is the 2nd smallest state in the U.S. with 2,489 square miles. Delaware has a total population of just over 1 million. According to statistics from the Delaware State Police, there are 754,593 licensed drivers in the state and 967,400 registered vehicles.
In 2021 (the most recent year for which complete data is available), there were 28,473 police reported vehicle accidents in Delaware. 8,255 people were physically injuries in those accidents and 139 were killed. These numbers make Delaware one of the safest states in the U.S. for auto accident fatalities, with just 1 fatality per 1 million miles driven.
Delaware Auto Accident Laws
Delaware has its own unique laws that apply to auto accidents including tort law; traffic laws (rules of the road); and insurance laws regulations. Below is a brief outline of all the key Delaware laws that apply in car accident lawsuits.
Delaware 2-Year Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Lawsuits
Delaware has a strict legal deadline on how long you can wait before filing a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. This law is called the statute of limitations.
In Delaware, auto accidents and other personal injury lawsuits are subject to a 3-year statute of limitations period. 10 Del. C. § 8119. This means that if you want to file a lawsuit to get compensation for injuries in a Delaware car accident, you must file the lawsuit within 3 years of the date of the accident. If you don’t file your case within 3-years, your case will get dismissed.
For car accident cases in which the state, county, or local branch of government is the defendant, Delaware imposes a 1-year statute of limitations period. 10 Del. C. § 8124.
Delaware Follows Modified Comparative Negligence in Car Accident Cases
In cases where the plaintiff is partly to blame for causing an accident, each state has its own rule for determining how this impacts the plaintiff’s right to recover damages. In these shared fault cases, Delaware has adopted what is known as a modified comparative fault rule. 10 Del. C. § 8132. Delaware’s comparative fault rule holds that if you are found to be partly at fault for an accident, you can still sue the person who was primarily at fault, however, your damages will be reduced based on your percentage share of fault.
For example, let’s say Jack and Jill are in a car accident. Jack is found to be “at-fault” for the accident because he failed to yield before making a left turn. Jill is injured in the accident and files a lawsuit against Jack. When the case goes to trial, the Jury finds that Jack was 80% at-fault for causing the accident and Jill was 20% at fault. Under Delaware’s comparative fault rule, Jill’s damages will simply be reduced by 20%. So if the jury awards $100,000, Jill would only get $80,000.
If the plaintiff’s share of fault exceeds 50%, however, they will be barred from recovering any damages at all. So in the example above, if Jill is found to be 51% at-fault she will get $0 damages.
Delaware Requires Compensation for Injuries
In many jurisdictions, appellate court will allow juries to find liability in a car accident lawsuit but award no damages. Delaware is different. In Delaware, the court will order a new trial if the defendant proves injury and the jury awards the victim nothing.
In 2023, a Delaware Superior Court reached this conclusion after a verdict where the jury awarded no damages. The court found that the jury’s zero-dollar verdict contradicted the evidence at trial that the plaintiff had suffered harm due to the accident. The evidence included consistent medical testimony during the trial, the plaintiff’s medical records, and the defendant’s admission that the plaintiff had sustained some injuries. In its decision, the court emphasized the unanimity of evidence that supported the plaintiff’s claims and found no counter-evidence from the defendant.
Delaware Vehicle and Insurance Laws
Delaware is frequently listed as a “no-fault” state with respect to auto insurance and accident liability. This is misleading, however, because Delaware does not have a pure “no-fault” system. Drivers in Delaware are required to carry “no-fault” auto insurance, which means accident claims for property damages are submitted to your own insurance even if the other driver is at fault. Unlike in pure no-fault states, however, Delaware does not impose any limits or restrictions on the right to sue the at-fault driver for additional damages.
- Cell Phone Use Prohibited: Delaware law prohibits any use of a phone or handheld mobile device by drivers at any time while a vehicle is in motion, unless hands-free mode is on. 21 Del. C. § 4176C.
- Duty of Drivers in Accident: in the event of a car accident resulting in more than $500 in damage, Delaware law requires all involved drivers to exchange information and report the accident to the police.
- Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements: Until recently, Delaware had very low mandatory minimums for car insurance coverage compared to other states. Currently, however, the minimum coverage requirements are similar to other states:
- BODILY INJURY: $25,000 per person / $50,000 per accident
- PROPERTY DAMAGE: $10,000
In Delaware, personal injury protection (PIP) coverage is mandatory with minimums of $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident. The same $15,000/$30,000 minimums apply for uninsured motorist coverage, however, UIM coverage can be declined in writing.
Damages Available in Delaware Car Accident Cases
There are no maximum limits or caps on the type and amount of damages that a plaintiff can be awarded in an Delaware auto accident lawsuit. Plaintiffs who bring car accident lawsuits in Delaware are entitled to the full spectrum of economic and non-economic tort damages in personal injury cases. These categories of damages in Delaware car accident are listed below:
- Medical Expenses: Car accident plaintiffs in Delaware can get damages for the cost of all medical treatment related to injuries suffered in the accident. This includes both past medical expenses and future medical expenses. Damages are awarded even if these costs were covered by health insurance.
- Lost Income: Damages can be awarded for any lost income or lost wages that result from injuries sustained in an auto accident. This includes not just past lost income, but also future lost income.
- Mental Pain & Suffering: Delaware law allows damages to be awarded for mental pain and suffering related to injuries sustained in a car accident. The more severe and painful the injury, the more compensation a plaintiff can get for pain and suffering. The judge or jury determines pain and suffering damages if a case goes to trial.
Settlement Value of Delaware Auto Accident Cases
The settlement value of a Delaware car accident injury case is based on various factors. The nature and severity of the plaintiff’s injuries is always the most significant factor that drives the value of a case. More serious injuries involve more medical expenses and more pain & suffering, which equates to a higher settlement value. The chart below shows the average settlement value range of Delaware car accident cases based on the severity level of the plaintiff’s injuries.
|INJURY SEVERITY LEVEL||SETTLEMENT VALUE|
|LEVEL I (minor)||$17,000 – $35,000|
|LEVEL II (moderate)||$51,000 – $141,000|
|LEVEL III (severe)||$181,000 – $468,000|
Delaware Car Accident Settlements and Verdicts
Below are recent verdicts and reported settlements from Delaware car accident lawsuits. These cases are provided for informational purposes only, to give examples of the types of injuries and associated legal damages awarded in Delaware auto accident cases.
- $500,000 Verdict (New Castle County): The plaintiff suffered significant but unspecified physical injuries in an auto accident caused by an underinsured driver. After settling for policy limits with the at-fault driver, the plaintiff sought additional damages under his UIM coverage with Allstate for personal injuries, mental anguish, unpaid medical bills, past lost wages, and loss of future earning capacity. Allstate disputed the injuries but a jury in Wilmington awarded $500k.
- $1,800,000 Verdict (New Castle County): The plaintiff reportedly was operating a vehicle on Salem Church Road in Newark, Delaware, when his vehicle was allegedly struck by the defendant who made a negligent u-turn that interfered with oncoming traffic. The plaintiff’s injuries included a bone fracture that led to a post-surgical infection.
- $4,5000 Verdict (Kent County): The plaintiff was driving eastbound on Millsboro Highway approaching its intersection with Mumford Road in Sussex County when the defendant allegedly ran a stop sign and struck her. The plaintiff hired a Delaware car accident lawyer who sought damages for her past, present, and future pain and suffering, mental anguish and emotional harm, past, present, and future physical injuries, permanent physical injuries, lost wages, medical bills not covered by PIP, and loss of enjoyment of life. A jury in Kent County only awarded $4,5000.
- $15,000 Verdict (New Castle County): a 31-year-old female, reportedly suffered radiculopathy of the cervical and lumbosacral regions which required physical therapy and injection therapy when she was rear-ended while waiting to make a left turn. After settling for policy limits with the at-fault driver, she sought UIM damages from her own insurance company (State Farm). State Farm rejected her claim and she took them to court and a jury awarded $15,000.
- $112,000 Verdict (New Castle County): The plaintiff, a 45-year-old-female, was rear-ended in a multi-car collision and suffered a cervical disc herniation. She underwent physical therapy and nerve blocking treatment as well as surgery. A jury in New Castle County awarded $112,000 in total damages.
- $250,000 Verdict (New Castle County): The plaintiff, a 22-year-old man, was riding his motorcycle when he was struck from behind by a vehicle and suffered a fractured right leg. After undergoing surgery for his leg he developed post-surgical complications including a blood clot that required additional medical intervention and treatment. The jury awarded $250,000 in damages.
Contact a Delaware Auto Accident Lawyer
Call 800-553-8082 if you are looking to maximize the settlement amount of your Delaware car accident case, or contact us online.