Statute of Limitations for Claims Against At-Fault, Negligent Drivers
Under Delaware law, individuals hurt in car accidents in this state have 2 years to file lawsuits against at-fault parties. See Delaware Code, Title 10 § 8119 Personal injuries, which provides:
No action for the recovery of damages upon a claim for alleged personal injuries shall be brought after the expiration of 2 years from the date upon which it is claimed that such alleged injuries were sustained; subject, however, to the provisions of § 8127 of this title.
The two year clock is pretty straightforward. The clock starts ticking on the date of the accident, whether it’s a car, truck, pedestrian or bike accident. In other words, the car accident lawsuit must be filed within 2 years of the date of the accident. Failure to file the lawsuit on time will result in dismissal of the case.
Statute of Limitations for Claims Against Car Insurance Companies
In terms of the statute of limitations, legal claims filed against a car insurance company are treated differently than claims against an at-fault or negligent party, like a driver. That’s because these claims are contractual in nature, i.e., based on the car insurance policy.
Under Delaware law, a 3 year statute of limitations period applies to lawsuits filed against car insurance companies. The 3 year clock starts ticking on the date the car insurance company breached the underlying car insurance policy/agreement.
Usually, there are two kinds of lawsuits against car insurance companies in a car accident injury case. First, there’s an Uninsured or Underinsured (UIM/UM) Motorist Coverage claim which applies in cases where the at-fault driver is uninsured (didn’t have insurance) or is underinsured (didn’t have enough insurance). Read more about UM/UIM claims in Delaware.
Second, there’s a bad faith lawsuit. Under Delaware law, an insurance company has a duty to act in good faith and deal fairly when handling and processing a claim. This applies to all insurance claims related to car accidents, which can include property damage claims, PIP or Personal Injury Protection claims and Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage claims. In most cases, these types of claims are filed with the insurance company of the injured party, although there are exceptions.
In addition to these claims, there’s an indirect claim against the at-fault party’s car insurance company. Even though the lawsuit is filed against the at-fault party directly, i.e., Injured Plaintiff v. John Smith, the plaintiff’s claim is handled and eventually paid by John Smith’s car insurance company. If John Smith’s car insurance company fails to settle the claim with the injured plaintiff in a reasonable manner, it may face a bad faith lawsuit.
Example: Injured Plaintiff (P) filed a lawsuit after a car accident with Negligent Driver (D) who was insured with ABC Insurance (ABC). P sustained major injuries and damages totaling $100,000. D had a minimal limits policy with $25,000 in coverage. P’s attorney tried to obtain the $25,000 from ABC, which ABC declined. After a jury trial, P was awarded well over the $25,000 available under D’s policy. As a result, P could file a separate lawsuit against ABC alleging bad faith for failing to settle the claim for $25,000.
Need Help After a Car Accident in Wilmington & Dover?
Contact our Delaware car accident lawyers for a FREE consultation. We handle auto insurance claims in Delaware such as PIP claims, UIM/UM claims and auto accident lawsuits against at-fault parties.
Our law firm has been helping residents of Delaware and the surrounding states since 1992. (302) 658-1717 (Wilmington) or (302) 736-5500 (Dover)
*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.
*Use of the contact form on this website or emailing one of our lawyers does not create any attorney-client relationship. In addition, confidential information should not be sent through the contact form.