This past summer, the Delaware legislature amended Delaware’s underinsured/uninsured (UIM/UM) motorist coverage law. Senate Bill 61 passed in both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Markell, with an effective date of January 3, 2014. The newly amended law, Title 18 Delaware Code § 3902, drastically changes the circumstances in which UIM/UM claims can be made in Delaware. While the amendments are effective January 3, 2014, they only apply to new car insurance policies or already existing car insurance policies which are renewed after January 3, 2014.
A Brief Explanation of UIM/UM Coverage in Delaware
UIM and UM coverage is an additional type of coverage which Delaware residents automatically receive when purchasing car insurance coverage. UIM/UM coverage provides an extra layer of coverage in the event a car accident is caused by a driver who fails to carry enough liability coverage (i.e., underinsured/UIM) or fails to carry any car insurance whatsoever (i.e., uninsured/UM). In such situations, the injured driver or passenger makes a UIM/UM claim with their own car insurance company.
While most Delaware residents purchase UIM/UM coverage, some waive their right to that coverage. As a result, when a serious car accident occurs, an injured driver or passenger who does not have UIM/UM coverage available, often faces significant financial hardship.
How UIM/UM Coverage Works for Car Insurance Policies Issued Prior to January 3, 2014
Historically, courts in Delaware have ruled that if an innocent car accident victim and the negligent driver had the same policy limit (or the victim’s limits were less than the negligent driver’s limits), then the negligent driver was not underinsured for purposes of Section 3902. See Nationwide v. Williams, a 1997 Delaware Superior Court case.
Example: Driver A is a Delaware resident and is seriously injured in a car accident caused by another Delaware resident, Driver B. Driver B has a minimum car insurance policy with $15,000 of state required bodily injury coverage. Driver A has UIM coverage of $15,000. Because the two policy amounts were equal, under the old Delaware UIM/UM law, Driver A cannot make a UIM claim. The old version of the UIM/UM law required that Driver A’s UIM/UM coverage be higher than Driver B’s bodily injury coverage.
As a result of the amendments to Section 3902, UIM/UM coverage in Delaware is now more friendly to injured drivers and passengers. The amended UIM/UM law allows innocent car accident victims to access their own underinsured car insurance benefits when their damages exceed the amount available under the negligent driver’s car insurance policy, regardless of the amount of their UIM/UM coverage limits.
Section 3902(b)(2) reads as follows:
An underinsured motor vehicle is one for which there may be bodily injury liability coverage in effect, but the limits of bodily injury liability coverage under all bonds and insurance policies applicable at the time of the accident total less than the limits provided by the uninsured motorist coverage are less than the damages sustained by the insured. These limits shall be stated in the declaration sheet of the policy. (amended language noted)
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Wilmington DE Car Accident Lawyer with Over 30 Years of Experience
Since 1982, Martin Knepper, has served residents of Delaware in all personal injury matters, including car accidents and truck accidents. Contact our accident lawyers today and ask for a free consultation. (302) 658-1717
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