New Law. Adequate Automobile Insurance Coverage?

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susan_ament_morris_james_am11_sqBy Susan D’Alonzo Ament


The Morris James Personal Injury Group has years of experience representing victims injured in automobile accidents.  Sadly, all too frequently, we have to explain to clients that the at-fault driver only had the minimum automobile liability insurance coverage required under Delaware Law which is $15,000.00.  Obviously that amount is grossly inadequate for clients with catastrophic injuries, hospital bills, lost wages, etc.  The way to protect you and your family members who may be injured in an automobile accident is to be certain you purchase sufficient Underinsured Motorist Automobile Insurance Coverage.  The claim for Underinsured Motorist Automobile Insurance Coverage is triggered when the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier tenders the liability limits to the injured client.


Are you Aware of Important new changes to Delaware’s Underinsured Insurance Benefits Statute?

The Personal Injury Group Attorneys of Morris James LLP would like to dedicate this article to educating Delaware residents of the newest amendment to Delaware’s Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist Coverage Insurance Statute.  On July 3, 2013 Governor Markell signed into law an amendment titled, “[a]n Act to amend Title 18 of the Delaware Code Relating to Insurance”, which will benefit Delaware residents who elect underinsured motorist coverage when purchasing or renewing their automobile insurance after January 3, 2014.


Delaware’s current Uninsured / Underinsured Statute, Del. Code Ann. Title 18 § 3902 (West), enacted on October 31, 2008

Under Delaware’s current uninsured/underinsured statute, an injured individual can only access their underinsured motorist coverage if the injured party’s damages and policy limits exceed the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits. In other words, under the current law, if you elected underinsured motorist coverage in the amount of $25,000.00 and the at-fault driver has a policy of $25,000.00 you would be unable to access the underinsured coverage you paid for.  Unfortunately, most individuals are not aware of the current exception and only learn of it after being involved in an automobile accident.


What is the purpose of this new law?

The, “purpose of this amendment is to allow innocent victims of motor vehicle collisions to access their own underinsured insurance benefits in circumstances where the victim’s damages are greater than the amount of the negligent driver’s insurance policy limits.  Delaware courts have ruled that if the innocent victim and the negligent driver have the same policy limit or victim’s policy limits are less than the negligent driver’s, then the negligent driver is not considered “underinsured” even if the negligent driver’s policy limit is inadequate to compensate the innocent victims.  This amendment will rectify these inequities.…”


Why is this law important to you?

The reason why this amendment is so important is because once it takes effect, underinsured motorist benefits can be accessed by an injured person based on the damages they sustain regardless of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits.


When will this amendment become effective?

“The provisions of the law will not affect existing insurance policies, and will apply only to renewing or new policies that become effective six (6) months after the law is enacted.”  S.B. 61, 147th Gen. Assem., Vol. 79 Ch. 91 (2013).  THE LANGUAGE OF THE BILL ADVISES THAT THE NEW AMENDMENT ONLY APPLIES TO POLICIES OF INSURANCE THAT ARE ISSUED OR RENEWED AFTER JANUARY 2, 2014.  Therefore, a policy of insurance that is renewed before January 2, 2014, for a six month or year term, will not include the new underinsured amendment.


What can you do to protect yourself and the ones you love?

The Personal Injury Group Attorneys of Morris James LLP suggests that you protect yourself, as well as your loved ones, and renew your auto insurance policy with the underinsured election after January 3, 2014 so you can be assured your policy will apply the new underinsured amendment protection.


The Personal Injury Group Attorneys of Morris James LLP

The Personal Injury Group Attorneys of Morris James LLP combined have 153 years of experience in personal injury litigation and stay current on all of Delaware’s legislation affecting individuals involved in automobile accidents.  If you or a loved one suffers the unfortunate event of an automobile accident, the Personal Injury Group Attorneys at Morris James LLP will guide you through the process of obtaining the maximum compensation for your injuries that you are entitled to under the law.


Susan D’Alonzo Ament is a partner with Morris James LLP and has practiced for 30 years representing personal injury victims. Over the years, Mrs. Ament has found that some women don’t understand the crucial need to have adequate automobile insurance coverage in the event of a serious accident. Susan Ament educates women on these needs every day in her practice and in seminars that she presents throughout the year.


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