Like most states, Delaware requires that every registered motor vehicle be covered by a car insurance policy that meets certain minimum requirements, in case the vehicle is involved in a traffic accident. In this article, we'll discuss these requirements, and we'll touch on other key details related to auto insurance in Delaware.
Delaware follows a "fault" system when it comes to financial responsibility for injuries, vehicle damage, and other losses stemming from a car accident. This means that the person who was at fault for causing the car accident is responsible for compensating anyone who suffered harm as a result of the crash (although from a practical standpoint it's typically the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier that will cover these losses, up to policy limits).
In Delaware, a person who suffers any kind of injury or damage due to an auto accident usually can proceed in one of three ways:
Note: In no-fault car insurance states, claimants don't have this same range of options. If you're injured in a car accident in a no-fault state, you must turn to your own car insurance coverage for the payment of medical bills and other out-of-pocket losses, regardless of who caused the accident. Only if your claim reaches certain statutory thresholds can you step outside of no-fault and make a claim directly against the at-fault driver. Two of Delaware's neighbors (New Jersey and Pennsylvania) follow no-fault, but Delaware drivers don't need to worry about no-fault for an in-state accident.
As touched on above, Delaware requires vehicle owners to have the following minimum amounts of liability car insurance coverage:
This basic coverage pays the medical bills, property damage bills, and other costs of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians who are injured or have their vehicle damaged in a car accident caused by you or another covered driver, up to coverage limits. You can (and in some situations should) carry more coverage to protect you in case a serious crash results in significant car accident injuries and vehicle damage. Remember, once policy limits are exhausted, you are personally on the financial hook, so higher insurance limits can help protect your personal assets in the event of a serious crash.
Your liability coverage will kick in if any family member is driving your vehicle, or if you've given someone else permission to use it. It will likely also cover you if you get into an accident in a rental car.
Finally, remember that the liability coverage we discussed here doesn't apply to your own injuries or vehicle damage after a car accident.
Delaware also requires vehicle owners to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage at the following minimums:
This coverage pays medical bills, lost income, and certain other financial losses for any covered driver or passenger, regardless of who was at fault for the car accident.
The Delaware DMV provides details on auto insurance compliance in Delaware, and the state's Insurance Commissioner publishes an insurance guide for Delaware drivers.
If you drive a vehicle without car insurance in Delaware, you could face a fine of $1,500 for a first offense, and a $3,000 fine for any subsequent offenses. A six-month suspension of your driving privileges is also possible. Note that these fines and penalties will likely pale in comparison to the financial hit you could take if you're in a car accident and you don't have car insurance.