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Penalties and legal options for car accidents involving an uninsured driver
Stay informed on Delaware car insurance laws, minimum requirements, and options for additional coverage. Learn about penalties for uninsured drivers and how to protect yourself on the road.
Driving in Delaware requires that motorists understand and comply with the state’s car insurance requirements. The consequences of not doing so can be severe, both legally and financially.
This article provides you with the most critical information about Delaware car insurance laws, focusing on the minimum requirements, optional coverage, and legal options for those involved in a car accident with an uninsured driver. By understanding these laws, you’ll be better equipped to protect yourself and others on the road.
What is a fault-based insurance system?
Like the vast majority of states, Delaware operates under a fault-based insurance system. This means that, in the event of a car accident, the driver who is found to be at fault is responsible for paying the damages sustained by the other parties involved in the crash.
Under a fault-based insurance system, the injured party has three options to recover damages:
- File a claim with their own insurance company, which will then seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurer.
- File a claim directly with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
- File a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
The at-fault system helps ensure that those injured in a car accident can receive the necessary compensation for their injuries and property damage.
Minimum car insurance requirement in Delaware
Delaware law requires all drivers (including motorcyclists) to carry a minimum amount of insurance coverage to legally operate a vehicle on Delaware’s roads.
These minimum requirements are as follows:
- Bodily Injury Liability (BIL) coverage: This coverage pays for the medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages sustained by those injured in an accident caused by the insured driver. In Delaware, the minimum BIL coverage is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.
- Property Damage Liability (PDL) coverage: This coverage pays for the repair or replacement costs of property damaged in an accident caused by the insured driver. The minimum PDL coverage in Delaware is $10,000.
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage: This is no-fault coverage that pays for the insured driver and their passengers' medical expenses, lost wages, and other related costs, regardless of who is at fault for the accident. Delaware requires a minimum of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident in PIP coverage.
Liability coverage pays for the damages sustained by other drivers and passengers in a car accident you cause up to the coverage limits. If the damages exceed your coverage limits, you will be personally responsible for paying those damages. For this reason, many people choose to purchase liability insurance that exceeds the minimum requirements.
Optional insurance coverage in Delaware
In addition to the required minimum coverage, Delaware drivers can opt for additional insurance to better protect themselves and their assets in case of an accident. Some of the optional coverages available include:
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage: This coverage protects drivers in situations where they are involved in an accident with a driver who has no insurance or insufficient insurance to cover the damages. Delaware requires auto insurance companies to offer UM coverage to all drivers who purchase Delaware auto insurance, but this coverage can be rejected.
- Collision coverage: This coverage pays for the repair or replacement of the insured driver's vehicle after an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Deductibles and coverage limits vary.
- Comprehensive coverage: This coverage pays for damages to the insured driver's vehicle that result from non-collision events, such as theft, vandalism, or natural disasters. As with collision coverage, deductibles and coverage limits vary.
- Medical Payments (MedPay) coverage: This coverage provides additional financial protection for medical expenses incurred by the insured driver and their passengers, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. MedPay can be particularly helpful in covering expenses that exceed the limits of PIP coverage.
- Rental Reimbursement coverage: This coverage pays for a rental car if your vehicle is in the shop for repairs following a covered accident.
Be sure to ask about available discounts when shopping for auto insurance. Many auto insurance companies offer discounts for things like low usage, good grades, and the presence of anti-theft systems.
What are the penalties for driving without insurance in Delaware?
Driving without insurance in Delaware is illegal and can result in serious consequences. If a police officer stops you for any reason, you will be required to show valid proof of insurance on your vehicle.
Drivers without the required minimum insurance coverage face the following penalties:
- Fines: Uninsured drivers will receive a fine of not less than $1,500 for the first offense and $3,000 for each subsequent offense.
- Driving privileges: Uninsured drivers will have their license and registration suspended for six months.
- Reinstatement fees: Uninsured drivers will be required to pay a $200 reinstatement fee after their license and registration suspension period.
What are my legal options if I'm involved in a car accident with a driver who doesn't have insurance?
If you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, your options for recovering compensation depend on the coverage you carry on your own insurance policy. If you have UM coverage, you can file a claim with your insurance company to cover your damages up to the limits of your policy.
If you do not have UM coverage, you may need to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the uninsured driver to recover compensation.
Collecting damages from an uninsured driver is notoriously difficult, as uninsured drivers typically don’t have the money to satisfy judgments. An experienced Delaware attorney can help you determine the best course of action, which may involve garnishing the driver’s future wages or seeking payment through the Delaware Crime Victims Compensation Fund.
How does car insurance work if a friend or family member borrows your vehicle?
In Delaware, as is the case in most states, liability insurance follows the vehicle rather than the driver. In other words, if you let someone borrow your car and they cause an accident, your liability insurance should pay for the damages to the other driver and their passengers. The borrower's insurance policy may act as secondary coverage if the damages exceed your policy limits.
However, there are some exceptions. Your insurer may deny coverage if:
- The person borrowing your vehicle is specifically excluded from your policy,
- The person borrowing your vehicle drives your car regularly but isn’t listed as a driver on your policy, or
- You did not give the borrower permission to borrow your car.
Understanding Delaware's car insurance requirements and the consequences of non-compliance is essential for every driver in the state. By ensuring you have the appropriate insurance coverage, you can protect yourself, your passengers, and other motorists on the road.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.