Delaware clients can be involved in an auto accident caused by an individual without adequate insurance coverage. This underinsured individual may have only limited liability coverage.
Under these circumstances, victims of negligence can access their own automobile insurance policy for underinsurance protection which should be a part of everyone’s comprehensive insurance protection package.
Under existing Delaware law, if an injured victim elected Uninsured protection in an amount less than or equal to the amount of coverage available under the at-fault driver’s policy, you will NOT be permitted to access your own policy for underinsurance protection.
Therefore, if you have $50,000 in Underinsured coverage and sustained tragic injuries worth in excess of $100,000, you are still NOT permitted to access your own policy unless the at-fault driver has less than $50,000 in coverage. The flaw in the logic of the law is obvious — the driving force should be the value of your injuries not the amount of the respective coverages in relation to each other. Moreover, the victim has paid premiums for extra coverage!
This injustice has been rectified by the Legislature of Delaware and the law has been amended “to allow innocent victims of motor vehicle collisions to access their own underinsurance benefits in circumstances where the victim’s damages are greater than the amount of the negligent driver’s insurance policy limits.”
Thus, for policies written or renewed after January 3, 2014, victims of automobile negligence by drivers with inadequate insurance will only need to demonstrate the at-fault driver’s insurance is insufficient in relation to the injuries sustained to be able to access underinsured benefits.
This development in the law is logical and corrects a long-standing quirk in our laws that left many victims of negligence without sufficient legal recourse.
So, after January 3, 2014:
1) talk to your insurance agent about underinsurance coverage on your automobile policy; and
2) select or renew adequate underinsurance coverage in case you or your loved ones are struck and injured by an underinsured driver (remember, a Delaware driver may carry as little as $15,000 in liability coverage).
Be mindful, though, a renewal of your policy before January 3, 2014 will NOT qualify. Only your first renewal AFTER January 3, 2014 will qualify.
Mark R. Schmidt is an attorney in Media, PA.