Delaware Car Accident Laws Staff Profile Picture
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According to the state's Department of Transportation, there were 28,473 traffic crashes in Delaware in 2021, which resulted in 8,255 injuries and 139 deaths. The number of crashes in 2021 was lower than the 29,137 in 2019 and higher than the 24,161 car accidents in 2020. The decrease from 2019 is likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in reduced traffic on Delaware roads. However, car crashes remain a significant problem in the state, as the latest figures for 2022 record 165 fatal crashes on Delaware roadways.

Specific laws and regulations govern how drivers must behave in the event of a car accident, how liability is determined, and how compensation is awarded. Understanding Delaware motor vehicle laws is crucial for protecting legal rights and ensuring victims receive the compensation they deserve—especially since car accident victims may face devastating consequences, including physical, emotional, and financial losses. New and experienced drivers alike must be aware of these laws and be open to seeking legal counsel from Delaware car accident attorneys.

Delaware Drunk Driving Law

Alcohol was involved in 30% of the 134 fatal crashes in Delaware in 2021, and of all the drivers killed, 36% were under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. According to DE Code Title 21 Section 4177, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of any drug, alcohol, or a combination of alcohol and any drug. 

The legal blood alcohol concentration limit for drivers 21 years of age and older in Delaware is 0.08%. If a driver is found to have a BAC of 0.08% or higher, they will be charged with DUI, or driving under the influence. Additionally, the state imposes more severe penalties for drivers with a BAC of 0.15% or higher, including increased fines, license suspension, and mandatory jail time.

Additionally, Delaware has a "Zero Tolerance" law for drivers under 21, which means that any driver under 21 who operates a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.02% or more will be charged with a DUI.

If a driver is pulled over on suspicion of DUI in Delaware, they will be asked to take a breathalyzer test to determine their BAC. Refusing to take a breathalyzer test in Delaware can result in an automatic license suspension and other penalties.

Penalties for DUI can be severe. For a first offense, the penalties may include a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $1,500, not more than 12 months of imprisonment, or revocation of the license for one year. Repeat offenders may face increased fines, longer license suspensions, and mandatory jail time.

Delaware Hit-and-Run Law

Delaware sees hit-and-run incidents as serious crimes under DE Code Title 21 Section 4202, preventing drivers from leaving the scene of an accident. The law requires drivers involved in an accident, whether with another vehicle, a pedestrian, or property, to stop and provide their name, address, vehicle registration number, and driver’s license to the other parties involved or to the police.

If a driver fails to stop and provide this information, they can be charged with a hit-and-run offense, a misdemeanor punishable by fines of not less than $1,000 or more than $3,000, imprisonment, and license suspension. The severity of the punishment depends on the extent of the damage or injuries caused by the accident.

Suppose the hit-and-run accident caused serious injuries or death to another person. In that case, the driver could be charged with a class E felony with severe penalties, including significant fines, a minimum of one year in prison, and a requirement that the first six months of any term imposed be served consecutively.

Additionally, even if the driver did not cause the accident, they are still required by law to stop and assist anyone who may be injured or need help. Those involved in an accident in Delaware should stop, assist anyone injured, and exchange information with the other parties involved. Failing to do so can result in a fine of up to $75. Those who have witnessed a hit-and-run accident should report the incident to the police immediately. 

Delaware Seat Belt Law

Wearing a seat belt is mandatory in Delaware for all drivers and passengers in the front seat of a vehicle. The Delaware Seat Belt Law, or the Occupant Protection System Safety Act, under DE Code Title 21, Ch. 48, applies to all passenger vehicles, including cars, trucks, and vans. The law requires that all front seat occupants wear a seat belt, regardless of their age or position in the vehicle. This law is designed to promote safety on the state's roadways and reduce the risk of serious injury or death in the event of a crash.

The Delaware Seat Belt Law is a primary enforcement law where officers can pull over and ticket drivers for not wearing a seatbelt. The fines for not wearing a seat belt in Delaware can vary but typically start at $25 for a first offense.

Child Restraint Laws

All children under 16 must be properly restrained in child safety seats, booster seats, and/or seatbelts, depending on their age and weight. Children under the age of eight must be in a child safety seat, while children between the ages of eight and 16 must be properly secured in all seating positions. A violation of the child restraint law is punishable by a $25 fine for each instance. 

The Delaware Office of Highway Safety recommends that parents and caregivers have their child's car seat checked by a certified technician to ensure that it is installed correctly and is appropriate for the child's age, weight, and height. It conducts free classes for parents and caregivers on using the correct car seats, booster seats, and seatbelts. 

Delaware Law on Running a Red Light or Stop Sign

Under DE Code Title 21, Ch. 41, Subchapter II, all Delaware drivers, regardless of age or driving experience, must stop at a red light or stop sign. Drivers may choose to proceed despite the red light or stop sign only when it is safe to do so. Violations can result in a higher risk of accidents and injuries, and failure to stop at a stop sign or red light is considered a moving violation and can result in fines and points on a driver's license. 

The penalties for running a red light or stop sign in Delaware can vary depending on the circumstances of the offense. For a first offense, the violator may be fined between $75 and $230. Repeat offenders may face increased fines, imprisonment, and even license suspension.

Delaware Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements

Delaware drivers must carryliability insurance to cover the costs of any property damage or physical injuries they may cause in a car accident. When an accident occurs, the drivers' insurance companies will investigate the incident and determine who was at fault. 

The following are the minimum amounts of liability car insurance coverage that are required for Delaware drivers: 

  1. Bodily Injury Protection - $25,000/$50,000

The insurance provider of the individual accountable for the injury or death of another individual will cover up to $25,000 for one person in a single accident and up to $50,000 for all people involved in a single accident, limited to $25,000 for a single individual. 

2. Property Damage - $10,000

The property damage coverage will pay for another person’s property that is destroyed or damaged as a result of any one accident. 

Drivers are also required to obtain Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage at the following minimums: $15,000 for any one person injured in an accident and covered under the policy; $30,000 for all persons injured in an accident and protected under the policy; and up to $5,000 for funeral expenses.

Driving without the right insurance in Delaware can result in fines of up to $1,500 for the first offense and up to $3,000 for subsequent offenses within three years. Moreover, driving privileges and/or licenses will be suspended for six months.

Delaware Is a No-Fault State for Insurance Claims

Delaware is a no-fault state for insurance claims. Drivers are required to carry both liability insurance and personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. 

Liability insurance pays for the damage and injuries the insured driver causes to other drivers and passengers, and PIP insurance pays for the damage and injuries that the insured driver and passengers sustain in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. This means that the auto insurance provider will cover parts of the policyholder's medical expenses, property damage, and lost income within the limits of their policy.

On top of the option of filing a PIP claim with their insurance company, drivers can file a claim directly with the other driver’s insurance carrier. If the expenses exceed the PIP coverage amount, then the car accident victim can still sue the at-fault driver for that excess. 

Delaware Is a Modified Comparative Negligence State for Car Accident Lawsuits

Delaware follows the modified comparative negligence rule, where a driver injured in a car accident can sue and recover damages from the other driver, even if they were partially at fault for the accident. However, the injured driver's percentage of fault for the accident will lower the amount of damages they can recover.

For instance, if a motorist is determined to have contributed 30% to an accident's causes and the full cost of damages is $100,000, they will only be entitled to collect $70,000, or 70%, of the total cost of damages.

It is important to note that a driver who is found to be more than 50% at fault for an accident will not be able to recover any damages from the other driver under the modified comparative negligence rule. This implies that even if a motorist is harmed in an accident but is judged to be 51% at fault, they will not be entitled to compensation from the other driver.

Delaware Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents

Delaware has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims related to car accidents. Those involved in a car accident in Delaware have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party.

Additionally, for individuals looking to file a claim against car insurance companies, the state gives a three-year statute of limitations from the date of the supposed breach of the underlying car insurance policy or agreement. This covers uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage claims and bad faith lawsuits. 

Victims who fail to file a lawsuit within the two-year statute of limitations period may be barred from recovering damages for injuries and losses from the at-fault driver. It is also important to note that in cases where the accident results in a fatality, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of the victim's death rather than the date of the accident.

Average Settlements for Delaware Car Accident Lawsuits

Due to its modified comparative fault system, it is difficult to determine the average settlement for car accident lawsuits in Delaware. The settlement amount can vary widely depending on the specific circumstances of each case. Factors that can influence the settlement amount include the severity of the injuries, the extent of property damage, the at-fault party's insurance coverage, and other factors related to the accident.

Car accident lawsuits in Delaware typically fall under personal injury claims, which cover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other accident-related costs. In general, settlement amounts for personal injury claims can range from a few thousand dollars to several hundred thousand dollars or more, depending on the severity of the injuries and the extent of the damages.

It is crucial to remember that insurance providers and at-fault parties may attempt to offer low settlement offers in an effort to avoid higher compensation or lengthy court battles. It is essential for accident victims to speak with experienced personal injury attorneys to make sure they get fair compensation for their injuries and losses.

An attorney can assess the particulars of a case, negotiate with insurance providers and at-fault parties, and, if required, represent the victim's interests in court. The specific facts of each case will determine the amount of the settlement for a car accident lawsuit in Delaware, so it's critical to obtain legal advice to make sure the victim gets the money they are due.

Legal Resources for Delaware Car Accident Victims

Pro Bono Projects and Resources in Delaware

The Access to Justice Program is an online directory put together by the Delaware State Bar Association. Its goal is to help and support car accident victims from low-income families who might not have access to a lawyer otherwise. The program works to bridge the justice gap by providing pro bono legal services, outreach programs, and education to those in need. 

  • Delaware State Bar Association

    • Phone: (302) 658-5279

Delaware Driver Manual

A comprehensive guide prepared by the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to  ensure that drivers are informed about the rules and regulations while operating a vehicle. It provides all the information drivers need to know to obtain a driver's license, maintain a safe driving record, and stay up-to-date on the latest driving laws in Delaware.

  • Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles locations:

    • Wilmington (302) 434 3200 

    • Delaware City (302) 326 5000

    • Dover (302) 744 2500

    • Georgetown (302) 853 1000 

Delaware Insurance Guide

A comprehensive guide by the Delaware Department of Insurance that provides information on the types of auto insurance coverage available in the state. It explains how to choose the right coverage and what to do in case of car accident involvement.

  • Delaware Department of Insurance Consumer Services Division 

    • 1-800-282-8611 

    • (302) 674-7310

Delaware Traffic Advisories

An online resource for up-to-date travel advisories and information for drivers and commuters throughout the state. DelDOT's Travel Advisory website offers a comprehensive view of current traffic conditions, construction projects, and other events that may impact travel times and routes.

  • Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) 

    • Toll-free: (800) 652 5600

    • In Delaware: (302) 760 2080

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