Updated on 11.23.2020
It is a gorgeous day. You decide to go for a drive with your family. As you approach a four-way stop in town, you look in each direction to make sure your way is clear. You move ahead.
But suddenly, a car appears out of nowhere. Perhaps you overlooked it or it was positioned in a way that your view was blocked. Or the car didn’t stop at the stop sign and continued ahead — striking the front of your car.
What should you do if you are involved in an accident with another vehicle in Delaware?
It’s a good question because the state has specific rules about what needs to happen after a car accident and the types of insurance that you need to have if you are a resident of the state. So after a car accident, what should you do? Follow the steps below to protect yourself and your family.
How Do I Determine Fault in a Car Accident?
Car accidents are almost always the result of driver error. Delaware uses the rule of contributory negligence. This means you can file a claim against another driver even if you are partially responsible for the accident. Determining your level of responsibility will also determine any damages you might receive as a result of a car accident in Delaware.
Here are the kinds of accidents that regularly occur.
- Fender benders: Rear-end collisions are the most common kind of car accident in the United States, comprising more than 30% of all car crashes. In most cases, the driver of the rear vehicle is at fault either because they were not paying attention, or they were tailgating and did not see the car in front of them stop.
- Multi-car collisions: These frequently happen on highways and state roads during rush hours when motorists tend to be traveling too fast and too close to one another. One car stops, and then a line of cars crash into each other as a result. A more serious version of this can happen on a highway during adverse weather conditions such as fog.
- T-bone crash: Broadside crashes happen when one driver smashes directly into the side of the other driver. This type of collision occurs most frequently at traffic lights and stop signs.
- Sideswipes: Two cars traveling the same direction scrape against each other, or a car hits the sides of vehicles parked along a street. This can be serious if the cars are traveling at fast speeds.
- Head-on collision: The most serious and deadly form of a car crash.
- Striking a stationary object: A driver loses control of their car and hits a tree or a building. They may also collide with a deer. While deer and other animals are not stationary objects, hitting them often produces the same effect as striking a stationary object.
- Rollovers: Normally the result of a driver overcorrecting while taking a corner at a high rate of speed. This is an accident frequently suffered by younger drivers.
Fault and Auto Insurance Premiums
As defined by these laws, if you have been in a car accident in Delaware, you may or may not see an increase in insurance premiums, based on what caused the accident. If you are found to be more than half at fault for causing the accident (more than 50%) and your insurance carrier pays you benefits for the accident injuries and damages, your insurance costs may increase.
Even if you were only found to be 55% at fault, your insurance rates may go up. If there was no other car involved in the accident, your premiums may also be raised.
On the other hand, your premiums should not increase if you were not at fault. Even if you have contributed to the accident but are found to be less than 50% at fault, your insurance costs should not increase.
Talk to a Lawyer Now
What Should I Do After an Accident in Delaware?
While most people have a good idea of how to respond after being involved in a car accident, it never hurts to go over these fundamentals once again. At the scene of an accident, you should take the following steps.
1. Do Not Leave the Scene
If you are involved in a crash, you must remain on the scene. If the crash is a serious one and the other driver is injured, but you are not, you must provide assistance.
Even if no one is severely injured and you leave the scene of a car crash before exchanging information or talking to a police officer, this action can result in you losing driving privileges. If possible, move your vehicle to the side of the road so as not to block traffic but remain close to the scene of the accident.
2. Call 911
As you check on the condition of other drivers or passengers at the collision scene, you should also call 911. Give the operator the following information:
- Your location
- Which direction you are driving
- Any close intersections or mile markers or any landmark that will help give them a better location for you
Ask for medical help if anyone is injured. Calling 911 is also important for you in terms of any future liability claim because the 911 operator will dispatch police to the scene, and a police report is an essential part of any future claim.
3. Protect the Scene
You can reduce the likelihood of further accidents by illuminating the scene. Set up flares or keep your car’s flashers on. If it is nighttime and your lights don’t work, use a flashlight to let people know where you are while you wait in your disabled car or by the side of the road.
4. Record as Much as You Can About the Accident
When the police arrive, give them an accurate description of what happened. Do not invent facts.
On the other hand, do not admit fault, even if you think you may have had a role in the accident. Describe to them what happened. If the police officer asks if you’re hurt, but you are not sure, never say no. Tell them you are not sure if you are hurt. Sometimes serious or even minor injuries do not manifest themselves until a day or two days after a car crash.
5. Use Your Smartphone’s Camera
Take lots of pictures, especially of visible damage. Do not take one photo, take many. Take them of both your car and the other driver’s car. Take photos of your surroundings, as this will show details you may not remember later — such as the weather, landmarks and how the vehicles were positioned. Take photos of any skid marks. If you or a passenger are injured, take pictures of these injuries.
Stay out of the way of the police as they investigate the crash, and take your pictures at appropriate times. The vehicles involved in the accident should remain where they are, unless they interfere with traffic. If you need to move them, take before and after photos of their location and position.
6. Talk to Witnesses
It’s not always possible to find witnesses who have seen the accident you were involved in, especially if it happened on a highway. But if there are passersby remaining close to the scene, ask them politely for their names and phone numbers. If they tell you they don’t want to be involved, say thank you and move on to the next person if someone else is available.
7. Exchange Information
At the collision scene, you are required in Delaware to share your information with other parties involved, as they are with you. That information includes:
- Your name and address and contact details.
- Your driver’s license number.
- Your license plate number.
- Your insurance information.
- You should also give this information to the police officer on the scene.
8. Get a Police Report Number
In most cases, the police officer responding to the crash will give you a police report number. If they do not mention this to you, ask them for one before they leave. You can use this number later to obtain the police report about the accident, which is essential in any accident liability case. You should also ask for the officer’s name so you can follow-up with them specifically about the report.
9. Call Your Insurance Company
Let your insurance company know about the accident as soon as possible. Most insurance companies require that you report any accident immediately, which many companies require. Ask for the claim number. Keep in mind that the PIP portion of your Delaware insurance policy will cover your medical bills and lost wages up to the amount of policy limits.
10. Get Medical Help
If you are seriously injured in a Delaware car accident, you will be treated at the scene by emergency medical personnel and transported to the nearest local hospital if necessary, which means the steps above may not have been possible in the moment. You will want to rely on a close friend or relative who can be with you during this time to follow-up on the details of the accident and help you gather information.
But even if your injuries are not serious, it is important that you see a doctor as soon as possible, whether in an emergency room or at an appointment with your family physician. Tell them that you were involved in a car accident. A minor injury can grow worse in the days following an accident. If you briefly lost consciousness when the accident occurred, make sure you tell this to the attending physician.
Injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents may not be immediately apparent. Most of our clients report feeling the most pain a day or two following an automobile accident. Even in accidents involving minor impact, you can sustain a serious and permanent injury to your spinal cord. If you lost consciousness or were dazed for even a short period of time following the collision, you may have suffered a concussion or closed head injury. This can cause cognitive and behavioral changes if left untreated.
How Do I Document Evidence After an Accident?
After the crash has occurred, the police have investigated, information has been exchanged, injured parties have been treated, and the damaged cars towed away, what you do in the next few days will play an important role in any future liability claims you make. The most important thing to do is to document everything:
- Make detailed notes about any medical treatment you receive for any injuries suffered in a car crash in Delaware. This will help you get full reimbursement from your insurance company.
- Keep a record of the names of any doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist or any other health professional you visit for medical treatment.
- Keep a journal about how your injuries affect you. Be honest. Remember, not every day is going to result in a pain level of 10. If that were true you’d be in the hospital already. Describe how you feel when you get up in the morning and how the pain level progresses throughout the day. Also, record how it affects your normal activities.
- Make a copy of every email, letter or text that you may have exchanged with your medical professionals. Make notes during phone calls.
- Save every medical bill and the receipts, including those for prescriptions, co-payments, or any special equipment you are required to use to deal with your injury.
- Make a record of any expenses you have involving travel for medical treatment.
- Keep a record of lost wages that you may have suffered.
- If, at some point, you are involved in a meeting with lawyers for the other driver, make sure you get the names of everyone involved and make notes about the meeting as soon as it is over.
It may seem like a lot of work, but the dividends are huge. If you decide to hire an auto accident lawyer to help you with your automobile liability claim, these documents and records will help them enormously in the preparation of your case.
What Not to Do After Being Involved in a Car Crash
You might never have an automobile accident in Delaware in your life. Or you may experience several by no fault of your own. However you experience an accident, there are some things that you should NOT do following an automobile accident in Delaware. Missteps can have a decidedly negative effect on any auto liability claim you may file. Remember these tips.
1. Never Admit Fault at the Accident Scene
It is human nature to want to apologize when you are involved in a situation that is awkward or uncomfortable. This is never a good idea if you are involved in a car crash accident in Delaware. If an accident occurs, you should follow the steps listed above. Be calm. Be polite. Do not lose your temper.
But do not apologize. Do not openly blame the other person. And do not confess to your insurance agent if you think the accident may have been your fault. Give an honest report of what happened and let your attorney and the insurance companies work out the details.
2. Never Settle Your Case Until All Your Medical Treatment Has Been Completed
Often insurance companies for other drivers will attempt to settle damages as soon as possible if their client carries the majority of the blame. Do not do it. Until all your treatments are done, and your injuries healed, you won’t have any idea of what the total cost of your injuries will be.
3. Do Not Sign Anything Until You Are Ready
When presented with a check, it’s tempting to sign it and take the money as presented. Do not do it if you are not ready to settle on the spot. Also, do not sign a release form even if it is from your own insurance company because sometimes this will release them from the responsibility of paying for any future claims if your injuries worsen.
4. Do Not Gossip About Your Accident
Unless you are talking to your spouse, a parent, your medical provider, your insurance company or a police officer, don’t talk to anyone about your accident and any liability claim that may result from it. Insurance companies may hear of any comments you’ve made, which could allow them to not pay you any benefits you are due. This includes finding neighbors to whom you may have innocently said, “I’m not totally sure what happened at the accident” or “Sometimes I worry it was my fault.”
5. Do Not Let the Other Driver Pressure You Not to File a Police Report
The other driver may argue at the scene that it is only a minor accident, that it does not hit the threshold of financial damages that are required to file a police report, that nobody was hurt, that you are both in a hurry and who needs the hassle. Do not listen to them. If you are concerned about the accident and its possible results, make that 911 call so you have a police investigation and a police report. Like medical injuries that may not fully be felt until a few days after the accident, your vehicle may have sustained more serious damage than what you can visually see. You may not realize this until the car is evaluated by a mechanic or your insurance representative.
Auto Accident Laws & Regulations
There are specific laws that apply to auto accidents in Delaware, and you should have some familiarity with them. Ignoring them could result in legal action against you, expensive fines or dismissal of any liability case you may wish to file. Here’s what to do to ensure you follow all the rules after a motor vehicle accident in Delaware.
1. All Accidents in Delaware Should Be Reported
Even if the only damage was to your car, as when hitting a stationary object or even an animal, such as a deer, you could be fined if you do not report the accident. If you are in any accident involving injury to another person and you do not report it, you can be charged with a misdemeanor.
If you do not report an accident that involves the death of another driver or passenger, you could be charged with a felony. Any accident on a public highway that results in more than $1500 of damage or an accident involving a person intoxicated or under the influence of drugs must be reported.
2. Delaware Drivers Must Carry Liability and No-Fault Driver Insurance
No-fault driver insurance, known as personal injury protection, or “PIP”, is required in Delaware. PIP covers your medical expenses regardless of who was at fault in the accident. It does not cover any pain or suffering. That is the purpose of liability insurance. For a better explanation of the difference between the two, talk with an experienced attorney.
3. Before a Trial in Delaware, All Parties Must Go Through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
ADR is a form of mediation between parties in an automobile accident. If the parties reach an agreement, the arbitrator notifies the court within five days. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the conflict moves to the trial stage.
4. Comply With Delaware’s Comparative Fault Negligent System
Under the comparative negligence system, you can file a lawsuit against the other driver even if you are partially responsible for the accident. If you are more than 51% responsible, you may not file any lawsuit. However, if you are 20% responsible for an accident, any damages awarded to you in a lawsuit will be reduced by 20%. So, if you are awarded $10,000, you will only collect $8000.
Delaware Car Accident Reports
If you have been in a major car accident, police will likely be at the scene, and a police report will be filed. However, what happens if you are involved in a minor car accident? Should you still file a police report?
The answer is that in many cases, it is a good idea. You may need a police report to file an insurance claim, and in most cases, you will want to alert your insurance company if you have been in a crash. Many car insurance policies require you to report any accident to them. If you fail to do so and your insurance company finds out about it, you may find your premiums increasing, or you may even be denied insurance when you try to renew your policy.
In addition, Delaware law requires you to contact the police if any of the following apply to your collision:
- The collision resulted in any injury or fatality
- The collision happened on a public highway and likely caused at least $500 in property damage
- The collision may have involved a drunk or drugged driver
The Risks of Not Filing a Police Report
There are also some risks of not filing a police report. For instance, with no police report, there is no external version of events. You may end up being blamed for an accident that was not your fault. In addition, you run the risk of not getting insurance money if you are injured.
Even if you seem uninjured after a car crash, keep in mind some injuries, including serious soft tissue injuries and head injuries, may not be obvious right away. You may feel fine after the crash and then develop symptoms hours or days later. At that point, you may need help to pay for medical bills, and you may need an insurance claim and a police report to do so.
Finally, if you have been in a minor car accident and agree verbally with the driver not to report it, you run the risk of being accused of causing a hit and run. If you don’t report the accident, the other driver can still go to the police and allege you left the scene of an accident, leaving you to clear your name.
How Much Time Do I Have to File an Automobile Accident Lawsuit in Delaware?
In Delaware, unlike some other states, you have only two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit for personal damages or injury. Some states start the clock on the two years from the time a person realizes that they have been injured, which in some cases can be several weeks or even months after the original accident.
So any expenses that you have incurred for medical treatments or buying a new vehicle or for pain-and-suffering can only be covered if your lawsuit is filed within the two-year period.
Should I Get an Attorney When in an Automobile Accident in Delaware?
Yes, absolutely. Hiring a good automobile accident claims attorney can be one of the smartest things you can do when you have been in a car crash, for these reasons:
- Insurance companies have a lot of experience dealing with automobile accident claims. They know the pressure points to apply, the rebuttals to make, the offers to put on the table at the right moment that cost you money and save them money. If this is your first car accident, you have no experience dealing with these kinds of issues. Experienced automobile accident lawyers know how to deal with these tactics. That’s one very good reason to hire a lawyer to help you.
- It’s a confusing process. There are numerous forms to fill out, records to obtain, and documents to gather. A knowledgeable automobile accident lawyer will help an enormous amount in the collection of all required records, documents, receipts and expense forms. They will know the right time and where to file any lawsuit.
- You’re hurt. You have been in a car accident. This is not an everyday event. You could be seriously hurt. Even with a minor injury, you could be worried about how this will affect your job or your family. You may be prevented from engaging in normal activities by your doctor. You need to be able to spend as much of your time and energy as possible on recovering. Your attorneys will pick up the slack and prepare your case, leaving you time to heal.
- Do it sooner rather than later. When should you actually engage a lawyer? The best answer is as soon as you can. Remember, Delaware has a two-year window to file a lawsuit involving an automobile accident. Two years might sound like a long time, but in legal terms, it is a wink of an eye. If you know that you want to file a lawsuit, or you are strongly considering doing so, you should hire a lawyer as soon as possible.
What Can An Attorney Do?
If you are in an auto accident, an attorney can gather evidence of what really happened.
An attorney has access to investigators, medical experts, engineers, expert witnesses, accident reconstruction experts and other professionals who can offer a fuller picture of what led to an accident.
In addition, an attorney can seek out all liable parties and present evidence of who was at fault. If an insurance company is acting in bad faith or trying to make a lowball offer, attorneys have the insurance industry knowledge to counter these actions and ensure you get the compensation you deserve.
Insurance Issues After a Collision
Not every insurance carrier will honor the rules. If you have been in an accident and you feel your insurance premiums have been increased in violation of the law or if you have other insurance concerns, contact Doroshow, Pasquale, Krawitz, and Bhaya to speak to an attorney.
Let Doroshow, Pasquale, Krawitz, and Bhaya Help You With Your Automobile Accident Lawsuit
We have an experienced and knowledgeable legal team who will work with you and help you get the benefits you deserve. If you have been in an automobile accident, we will take an extensive look at your situation and offer legal advice on what to do after a car accident in Delaware.
We do not see our clients as just another case but as individuals who have suffered trauma that needs to be rectified. We understand how difficult dealing with these situations is for you and your family, and how important it is to you to have it settled quickly and fairly.
Come and see us to determine if you have a legitimate claim. Contact us for a free consultation and let’s talk.