Car Accident FAQs
If you have been involved in a car accident, you will have many questions. Should I hire a lawyer? What if I've been hurt? What if my car was totaled? Read our "Frequently Asked Questions" about car accidents for answers to these and many more.
1. When should you hire a lawyer for a car accident?
Most car accident victims would benefit from hiring a lawyer. A good personal injury lawyer can explain your legal rights and also give you practical, strategic advice about your case. A lawyer will deal with the insurance company for you and will handle all of the administrative and procedural work that is required in a car accident case. Ultimately, victims who have legal representation usually are more fairly compensated than unrepresented victims.
It is a good idea to consult with a lawyer promptly after a car accident. The other driver’s insurance company will not waste time getting to work to reduce their financial exposure. Most lawyers, including our attorneys at Morris James, offer a free initial case evaluation so you can find out more about your rights and your options.
2. What if I’ve been hurt in a car accident?
If you have been hurt in a car accident, you should seek medical attention immediately. Call 911 to alert the police and, if necessary, call an ambulance. If your injuries are less severe, you should still get medical attention, both for your own recovery and to document your injuries. You should also document the evidence at the scene by taking photos or video, exchange insurance details with the other driver, and get contact details for witnesses. You should NOT admit fault.
Contact your insurance company to report the accident and find out about coverage on your own policy, particularly in Delaware where you are required to have personal injury protection insurance (PIP) coverage for injury-related expenses. Contact a lawyer to discuss your rights and ensure you get the compensation you deserve from your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company.
3. What if I was involved in a rideshare accident such as Uber® and Lyft®?
If you were involved in a rideshare accident either as a passenger in the rideshare vehicle or as an occupant of another vehicle, you generally seek compensation from the insurance company of the at-fault driver. If the at-fault driver is the rideshare driver, the situation can be more complicated because most rideshare drivers are not covered by their personal insurance policy when the vehicle is being used for commercial purposes. However, many rideshare companies, including Uber® and Lyft®, now offer liability insurance to their drivers which provides limited coverage for injuries and damage in the event of an accident. The amount of coverage usually depends on whether the accident happens when the rideshare driver is waiting for, picking up, or transporting a passenger, and the claim must first be denied by the rideshare driver’s personal insurance.
4. What if I have been hurt in an accident involving a drunk driver?
If you are injured in a car accident with a drunk driver, call 911 immediately. This will alert the police (which is a legal requirement in the event of an accident with an intoxicated driver in Delaware) and call an ambulance, if necessary. If you do not require an ambulance, you should still seek professional medical attention for your injuries. A medical report and the police report will be important evidence in your claim. You should also document other evidence at the scene by taking photos or video, and collect contact details for witnesses.
A drunk driving accident will often lead to both a criminal case and a civil case/insurance claim. These are completely separate and distinct, though evidence from the criminal case will be relevant to the civil case/insurance claim. The criminal case deals with the prosecution of the driver for driving under the influence of alcohol and will not compensate you for your injuries. The civil case/insurance claim is to compensate you for your loss as a result of the accident.
5. What does it mean if my car was totaled?
A car is “totaled” or considered a “total loss” when it cannot be repaired, or the cost of the repairs would exceed the value of the car. Some states have a specific total loss threshold that defines when an insurer must legally declare a car totaled and apply for a salvage title. In Delaware, a total loss formula is typically used which determines that a car is a total loss when the sum of the cost of repairs exceeds 80% of the car’s actual cash value amount.
6. What if I was hit by someone who was texting while driving?
Texting while driving is illegal for drivers of all ages in Delaware and carries a fine of $100 for a first offense and up to $300 for a second offense. Drivers in Delaware are also banned from using any handheld cellphone or other portable device while driving.
The purpose of this law is to punish the distracted driver, not to compensate the victims of an accident. If you are hit by someone who was texting while driving, you are entitled to file a personal injury claim for compensation for your injuries and losses, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
7. Can I still sue if I was not wearing my seatbelt during a car accident?
Yes. If you are a victim of a car accident, you can still file a personal injury claim for your injuries and other losses even if you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. In Delaware, your failure to wear a seat belt cannot be used to reduce your compensation in a civil trial or insurance claim adjudication.
8. Can I get my lost wages paid if I was in a car accident?
If you have to miss work as a result of your injuries from a car accident, your lost wages will typically be covered initially by your auto insurance policy, and when your coverage is exhausted, the insurance of the at-fault driver can be pursued. You will have to file a claim for and prove, these damages just as you would for your medical bills or damage to your vehicle.
9. What if I’ve been hurt in a car accident caused by someone who doesn’t have auto insurance?
If you are injured in a car accident with someone who does not have auto insurance, you should contact your own insurance company to find out if your policy includes uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. In Delaware, personal injury protection insurance (PIP) coverage of at least $15,000 per person and $30,000 for an accident is mandatory and will cover injury-related expenses up to the policy limits. It will not cover pain and suffering, or damage to your vehicle. However, that is why it is important to make sure your policy includes UM coverage, which will cover pain and suffering and vehicle damage. The minimum UM coverage offered in Delaware is $25,000 per person and $50,000 for the accident. UM coverage is not mandatory.
10. What if I’ve been hurt in a hit-and-run accident?
In Delaware, any driver involved in a motor vehicle accident is required to report the accident to the police if it results in injury; happens on a public highway; causes at least $500 of property; or involves an intoxicated driver.
If you are hurt in a hit and run, you must call 911 to alert the police and call an ambulance, if necessary. Your health and safety come first, and you should seek medical attention for your injuries. You should also gather evidence from the scene, if possible, including photos, videos, and contact details for witnesses. You should then contact your auto insurance company. As a Delaware-insured driver, your policy will include personal injury protection (PIP) coverage for your medical bills and wage loss. Hopefully, your policy also includes uninsured motorist (UM) coverage which will cover pain and suffering and vehicle damage. In Delaware, such personal injury protection coverage is mandatory. If the hit-and-run driver is identified, you would also be able to pursue a claim against them or their insurance company.
11. If I’m injured in an automobile accident as a passenger, will my personal auto insurance be involved?
If you are injured in an automobile accident as a passenger, your personal auto insurance does not have to be involved. You will likely file a claim on the insurance policy of the driver of the vehicle that you were in. Some states, including Delaware, require that drivers have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage on their auto insurance policy. This should cover your injury-related medical expenses and lost wages (up to the policy limits.) If another driver was at fault in the accident, you may be able to file a claim with their insurance company for your injuries. Finally, in the event you are seriously injured, your own policy may provide coverage for your injuries once the applicable coverages of the involved drivers are exhausted.
12. Should I get a lawyer for a car accident that wasn’t my fault?
Yes. You need a lawyer for the same reasons as any car accident victim because the other driver, or their insurance company, is unlikely to admit their fault. You will still need to file a claim, prove their fault, and fight for the compensation that you deserve. Even in a “no-doubt liability” case, where there appears to be no doubt that the other driver was at fault (e.g. DUI, rear-end, or T-bone), the other driver may argue facts to show that he was not at fault or that you were also at fault which, in Delaware, can reduce your compensation.
13. How much money should I expect for pain and suffering from an auto accident?
The amount of compensation for pain and suffering in a car accident will depend on the individual circumstances of your case, your injuries, and your unique pain and suffering. A reputable car accident lawyer will be willing to discuss the strength of your case and the settlements that they have achieved in the past, however, no lawyer can, or should, make any guarantee about the success of your case or the amount of compensation you will be awarded.
14. When is it too late to get a lawyer for a car accident?
It is never too late to get a lawyer for a car accident. Although there are time limits for bringing legal claims, these differ depending on factors such as the type of claim, the circumstances of the accident and injuries, and where the accident occurred. It is important to consult with a lawyer about the time limits that apply to you and your accident. Injured victims sometimes miss out on getting the compensation that they need and deserve after a car accident because they rely on incorrect information about their legal rights. Because it can be too late to get a lawyer if a legal deadline has passed, it is better to operate under the assumption that it is never too soon to obtain a lawyer.
15. Will my insurance pay me for pain and suffering?
In Delaware, drivers are required to have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage, which will compensate you for medical bills and lost wages (up to your coverage limits) after an accident but will not cover your pain and suffering. In order to get compensation for your pain and suffering, you will have to pursue a claim against the at-fault driver (who will usually be covered by their own auto insurance policy.) Should the at-fault driver’s coverage not be sufficient to cover your losses, you may pursue a claim for underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage under your own policy (assuming you did not decline this coverage).
16. What if I was the passenger injured in a car accident?
Under Delaware's Personal Injury Protection (PIP) laws, passengers are covered by the car insurance of the driver of their vehicle, regardless of whether or not the driver was at fault. In Delaware, a driver’s PIP insurance must provide coverage of at least $15,000. If your damages exceed the driver’s PIP coverage, you may be able to claim the excess on your own insurance policy or from the at-fault driver.
17. Does bodily injury coverage cover passengers in your vehicle?
Yes. In Delaware, bodily injury coverage applies to passengers in your vehicle with minimum required coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. Many insurance companies will encourage higher coverage levels. However, typically, an injured passenger will look first to their driver’s Personal Injury Protection coverage for payment of medical bills as a result of an accident, and if their driver is at fault for the accident, then the injured passenger may pursue their driver’s bodily injury coverage.
18. What are my rights as a passenger in a car accident?
If you were a passenger in a car accident, you have rights. In Delaware, an injured passenger in a car accident usually makes a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claim under the car insurance policy of the car the passenger was in, per 21 Delaware Code Section 2118(a)(2)(c). This means that if you are riding in your friend's car, and you are hurt in a car accident, you'll make a claim under their car insurance policy to pay your medical bills or cover lost wages. If your losses are greater than the PIP coverage, you may be able to claim the excess losses on your own insurance policy or from another driver at fault in the accident.
19. How much does a lawyer charge for a car accident?
Many car accident lawyers, including our attorneys at Morris James, work on a contingency fee basis. This means that we do not charge for our fees and services unless we obtain a settlement or verdict for our clients. On a contingency fee basis, lawyers’ fees are calculated as a percentage of your final settlement or award.
20. How long does a car accident claim take?
No two car accident claims are the same. Some claims may settle in as little as a few weeks or months. Other cases may require the filing of a lawsuit which may take well over a year to resolve. An experienced personal injury lawyer like the lawyers at Morris James can advise you on your individual case. However, no lawyer will be able to predict the course or outcome of any car accident case with 100% certainty.
21. I was in an accident in my company vehicle - who sues the at-fault driver?
If you are in an accident while driving a company vehicle, you will typically be covered by the company’s commercial insurance policy. If you have injuries or other losses from the accident, you should consult an attorney to discuss your legal rights and options, since the company is not going to pursue a claim on your behalf.
22. I was in an accident while driving for work - do I need my own lawyer?
If you were in an accident while driving for work, it is advisable to consult a lawyer to ensure that you are protected and get all the compensation that you deserve. In this situation, you may be entitled to compensation through workers’ compensation or via a personal injury claim for any injuries that you suffer. The type of claim will affect the type of compensation that you receive.
If you are at fault for the accident, your employer will typically be liable (and carry insurance) for any damage caused because the accident occurred while you were driving for work. However, in some circumstances, an employee can be held personally liable. You should consult an attorney if you are in this situation.
23. I was injured in an auto accident in Delaware but I am from out of state - can I sue in my home state?
If you are injured in an auto accident in Delaware, a Delaware lawyer is best positioned to help you navigate the applicable laws and relevant local authorities in Delaware. Morris James attorneys have years of experience handling multi-jurisdictional car accident cases where the parties involved are from different states and can advise you on the best course of action for you.
24. I was injured in an auto accident with a driver from Delaware - where can I sue?
Auto accidents often involve people from multiple states, perhaps all outside the state in which the accident occurred. An experienced car accident attorney, such as the team at Morris James, is accustomed to dealing with multi-jurisdictional matters, and will advise you on where you can, and should sue. This can affect the timing and success of your claim, and the amount of compensation that you are entitled to receive, therefore good legal advice is essential.