Delaware Personal Injury Laws & Statutory Rules
Get an overview of the laws governing personal injury lawsuits in Delaware.
In this article, we'll take an in-depth look at a few key Delaware personal injury laws that could come into play in your personal injury case, whether you're involved in an insurance claim or a full-blown personal injury lawsuit in state court.
Deadlines for Delaware Personal Injury Lawsuits
In Delaware, as in every state, a personal injury statute of limitations sets a deadline on how long you have to file a lawsuit in court after an accident or injury. In Delaware, the time limit is three years, which usually starts running on the date of the accident.
It's very important to keep this deadline in mind and get your lawsuit filed in Delaware's civil court system before the three-year window closes, otherwise the court will almost surely refuse to hear your case.
For claims against a city, county, or Connecticut State government, you have one year to file formal claim by written notice. (Del. Code Ann. title 10, § 4013(c), and title 10, § 8124.) See: Injury Claims Against The Government
Delaware's Shared Fault Rules in Injury Cases
Delaware follows a comparative fault rule
in cases where an injured person is found to be partly responsible for
his or her own injuries. Basically, if you're partly to blame for
causing the underlying accident that led to your injuries, any damages
you receive will be reduced by a percentage that equals your share of
fault. So, how does this rule work in practice?
Suppose that you are shopping for groceries one day when you trip on a broken floor tile, which you did not see because you weren’t watching the aisle as you walked down it. It’s determined that you are 10 percent at fault for the accident, and that the grocery store is 90 percent at fault, while your total damages should equal $10,000.
Under Delaware’s modified comparative fault rule, your damages are reduced by a percentage equal to the fault assigned to you. In this example, that means you may receive $9,000, or $10,000 minus $1,000 representing your 10 percent of the fault. As long as your fault is under 50 percent, you can collect damages; but if you are found 50 percent or more at fault, you can't collect anything at all from other at-fault parties .
Delaware courts will apply the modified comparative fault rule in any trial and verdict in a personal injury case. The rule might also come up during insurance settlement negotiations, if the adjuster thinks you share some of the fault for the accident. So, be prepared.
Delaware Car Insurance Laws
Delaware is a “fault” or “at-fault” state when it comes to auto insurance. That means, if you've been injured in a car accident, you have the option of filing an insurance claim (under your own coverage or against the at-fault driver's insurance carrier) or going to court and filing a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver.
"Strict" Liability for Dog Bite/Attack Cases
In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. In Delaware however, a specific statute (9 Dela. Code § 913) makes the owner "strictly liable", meaning regardless of the animal's past behavior, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog. Specifically, the statute reads:
“The owner of a dog is liable in damages for any injury, death or loss to person or property that is caused by such dog, unless the injury, death or loss was caused to the body or property of a person who, at the time, was committing or attempting to commit a trespass or other criminal offense on the property of the owner, or was committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense against any person, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog.”
Damage Caps in Delaware
Personal injury damages are
“capped,” or limited, in some states -- whether in terms of the type of
injury case or the type of harm being compensated. For example, some
states apply damages caps to non-economic or “pain and suffering”
damages. Others apply damages only to certain types of injury cases,
like medical malpractice cases.
Delaware does not have any laws capping damages in injury cases. Regardless of how the injury occurred, those injured in Delaware may seek both economic and non-economic damages in court, and there is no statutory ceiling on the amount that can be recovered.
Further Reading on Delaware Personal Injury Law
Delaware laws that apply to various types of injury cases include Title 21, Chapter 29 on motor vehicle insurance requirements; Title 21, Chapter 61 on motor vehicle liability, and Title 10 on civil law cases.