Auto Accident Hypothetical
PA Driver Injured in DE
Every day, Pennsylvania residents are traveling on Delaware roads and highways. Some PA residents commute to and from work in downtown Wilmington, and many simply travel through Delaware. When serious auto accidents occur on Delaware roadways, injured PA drivers/passengers often want to know whether they should file a lawsuit to obtain fair financial recovery for their injuries and damages, and whether limited tort applies.
Auto Accident Hypothetical: A Pennsylvania resident is driving to Wilmington, Delaware for work. She is injured in a serious accident which occurs on Interstate 95 near downtown Wilmington. The accident was caused by a Delaware resident. The Pennsylvania driver has limited tort on her car insurance policy, which normally limits her ability to sue for pain and suffering damages unless she suffered a permanent, serious injury. Does the limited tort election apply?
Delaware Car Accident Law is Friendly to Out-Of-State Residents Injured in Accidents in Delaware
Delaware car accident law is very friendly to out-of-state residents who are injured in car accidents that occur within the state. In a nutshell, a Pennsylvania resident who is injured in a car accident that occurs in Delaware will be able to take advantage of Delaware’s car accident laws.
Specifically, there are three aspects of Delaware car accident law which come into play in an accident case involving a Pennsylvania resident:
- Delaware does not recognize the limited tort limitation.
- Delaware retains full joint and several liability principles.
- Delaware courts apply the traditional collateral source rule.
Delaware courts have held that out-of-state residents, such as PA and NJ residents who are injured in car accidents which occur in this state, are not bound by their home state tort elections. After applying a choice of law analysis, a Delaware court would likely find that a PA resident injured in a car accident in this state is not bound by her limited tort election. See Thornton v. Boswell, a 1995 Delaware Superior Court case which held that a NJ resident injured in a car accident in Delaware is not bound by her tort election. In Thornton, the injured plaintiffs were residents of NJ, and the defendant (driver who caused the accident) was a Delaware resident.
What if an Out-of-State Resident Injured Another Out-of-State Resident in a Car Accident in Delaware?
Using the same hypothetical as above, let’s say the driver who caused the accident is not a resident of Delaware. Given that Delaware is well-traveled by out-of-state residents, this scenario is very likely; out-of-state drivers can cause accidents involving other out-of-state drivers.
In fact, in 1992, the Delaware Superior Court dealt with this very same fact scenario. In Turner v. Lipschultz, the plaintiff was a New Jersey resident and the defendant was a Pennsylvania resident. The accident occurred in Delaware, and the plaintiff, while not a legal resident of Delaware, was going to college in Delaware. There, the court applied Delaware law to the dispute and held that Delaware law would apply to the introduction of medical expenses.
Therefore, in a situation in which an out-of state driver causes injury to another out-of-state driver in an auto accident that occurs in Delaware, Delaware law will probably apply. So, in the hypothetical above, a Pennsylvania driver injured in a car accident in Delaware will be able to take advantage of Delaware’s car accident laws.
Firm founder, Martin Knepper, has been handling auto accident cases in Delaware for over 30 years and welcomes referrals from out of state counsel. For more information, please call (302) 658-1717.
*Disclaimer: This website page does not provide any legal advice or create any attorney-client relationship. Every case is unique and you should not take any action or make decisions in your case without speaking to a qualified car and truck accident lawyer in Delaware. Any discussion of results is no guarantee of the same or similar results in current or future cases.
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