Delaware Negligence Laws
How Fault is Determined in a Car Accident in Delaware
The aftermath of a car crash can be chaotic, with injured drivers and passengers, damaged vehicles, and police and emergency vehicles all at the scene. Once the smoke clears and immediate medical needs are attended to, the pressing question of “whose fault was it?” comes up. Although it is natural to think that crashes are only caused by one person, this is often not the case; the fault could lie with one, two, or more people.
Proving negligence was the cause of a car accident can be difficult if not handled properly. Crashes can be caused by several drivers, a defective vehicle’s manufacturer, a trucking company that hired an unqualified driver, even a party host that served alcohol to a minor driver. Delaware laws impact how these cases are handled, and they apply to negligence, liability, plaintiffs’ rights, and time limits for filing lawsuits.
Accident witnesses, police officers, and drivers may all have different perspectives as to what caused a crash, so plaintiffs are left with the burden of having to prove negligence. A person may be deemed as negligent if it is determined that they had a duty of care for someone else, failed to fulfill it, and the resulting injury and losses to the plaintiff was caused by this failure.
The plaintiff must prove that the other party’s lack of reasonable care led to actual damages, usually physical to either property or person. Proximate cause must also be established; this involves proving that the defendant’s actions and not something else caused the accident.
This situation is when more than one element led to the accident. Examples include two drivers, a driver and a pedestrian, two drivers and a defective car, etc. Many victims end up contributing to their injuries without realizing it. Delaware is one of several states that follow “modified comparative negligence” rules, according to Delaware Code Title 10 section 8132. If more than one party contributed to the accident, the damages recovered are decreased according to the percentage of fault. If this share of liability is more than 50 percent, the injured person cannot recover anything from the others involved.
Arriving at the fault percentage is somewhat of a gray area, and car insurance adjusters often negotiate these settlements in a manner that limits their exposure and thus fails to fairly compensate injured victims. In some cases, the decisions lie in the hands of a judge or jury decisions made in civil lawsuits.
Making a Negligence Claim
In order to prove negligence, a plaintiff should start by collecting evidence to show that the at-fault driver caused the accident. It is best to do this right at the scene, if possible. Speaking with witnesses and taking photos of the vehicles and road conditions is recommended. Other details like weather conditions, time of day, and any other observations should be recorded. All parties are also responsible for contacting their auto insurance companies as soon as possible.
It is also helpful to request a police report. Delaware law officers are required to provide these if the crash caused injury, death, $1,500 or more in property damage, or if an impaired driver was involved. A copy can be requested by calling the nearest police department to where the crash occurred. If it happened on a Delaware state highway, the state police can be contacted.
Delaware Statute of Limitations
Statues of limitations are time limits for plaintiffs to initiate lawsuits. In Delaware, these laws require that all car accident, property damage, and personal injury cases involving negligence be started within two years after the crash date. In cases of wrongful death, the same two-year period applies, starting on the day of the person’s passing (not the accident date).
In Delaware, auto insurance companies require that claims be made within a reasonable amount of time after accidents occur.
Delaware Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Provide Legal Guidance for Car Accident Victims
Turn to a qualified Delaware car accident lawyer at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC for experienced representation for any type of auto accident. We will fight to get you the compensation that you are entitled to. Reach out today by calling 302-888-1221 or completing an online contact form. We proudly serve clients in Wilmington, Dover, Newark, and Middletown Delaware, as well as those in Philadelphia and South Jersey.