Delaware is one of the deadliest states in the country for pedestrians, according to a recent study of federal data. It ranks as the fifth most dangerous state for pedestrians, and statistics show that the number of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities have nearly doubled in Delaware in the past decade. In the summer months, we have even more people on our roads as locals and visitors enjoy our beautiful state and weather, and many are biking, walking, running, or in golf carts on Delaware roads. Unfortunately, some of these people are involved in accidents with cars or other vehicles which can lead to serious injury and property damage.
If you are a pedestrian, cyclist, golf cart rider, or other non-motorized road user in Delaware, what should you do to protect yourself before you get out on the roads, when you are involved in an accident, and in the aftermath of an accident?
Before Getting Out
Anyone using the Delaware roadways should consider safety, and take steps to reduce the risks of an accident. Be aware of the weather, road, and traffic conditions; your experience as a rider; and whether or not drivers are accustomed to seeing pedestrians or cyclists on your route. If you are on a bike, you should have appropriate safety lights, a helmet, and use bike lanes where available. Wear bright or reflective clothing when walking or riding, especially when visibility is poor. Some walkers, runners, and cyclists wear ID bands with emergency contact and medical information, particularly if they have a medical condition. Make sure that children are appropriately supervised.
The best way to avoid dealing with the injuries, expense, and trauma of a road accident is to avoid the accident ever happening. Prevention is better than cure.
On the Road
When you are using Delaware roads, you must follow the relevant rules of the road, and it is your responsibility to know these rules. This includes stopping at stop signs, signaling, and staying in the correct lane for your bike, golf cart, or other vehicle. This is for your own safety and that of other road users, but it could also affect your liability and compensation if you are involved in an accident. Delaware is a modified comparative negligence state, which means that if you are partially at fault in an accident, your compensation will be reduced by the amount of your fault. And if you are 50% or more to blame for the accident, you will not be able to recover any damages for the accident.
Therefore, it is advisable, for safety reasons and to protect your rights to compensation if you are involved in an accident, to always obey the rules of the road.
If You Are Involved In An Accident
The most important thing when you are involved in an accident is your personal health and safety. Get yourself to a safe position away from moving traffic and other risks, and tend to any injuries. If you or anyone else injured in the accident needs immediate medical attention, call 911 to summon an ambulance. And never put your own safety at risk to protect your bike or other physical property.
Call the police to the scene of the accident. They will gather evidence and file a police report detailing the circumstances of the accident, and sometimes allocating fault. The police report will be evidence in any insurance claim or lawsuit as a result of the accident, and it is a very important document.
Get contact details and insurance information from anyone involved in the accident. For most people, whether they are a driver, pedestrian, or cyclist, this will mean providing details of their auto insurance policy. If a pedestrian or cyclist does not have auto insurance coverage, they should provide details of any homeowners, renters’, or other relevant insurance policy e.g. dedicated bicycle or golf cart insurance. You will likely claim for any expenses on the auto insurance policy of the at-fault driver. If they are a Delaware driver, they are required to have PIP coverage of a minimum of $15,000 in their auto insurance policy, which will cover your medical expenses and lost wages. If they are uninsured, or their PIP coverage is not sufficient to cover all your expenses, you may claim under the PIP coverage on your own insurance policy. PIP benefits will not cover property damage, such as damage to your bike, but this may be otherwise covered by insurance depending on the policies involved.
Gather evidence of the accident by taking photos or videos of the scene. Photos are useful for capturing important information such as the location of any vehicles or other objects, weather conditions, road layout, traffic conditions, and who is present at the accident. Photos are also a useful way to quickly record vehicle registration plates, insurance policy details, and other such information. You can read more about photos that are useful to take after an accident in our earlier article.
After An Accident
See your healthcare provider after a road accident. Sometimes people ignore or play down aches and pains after an accident, but even seemingly minor issues can become serious or chronic problems. It is also important to have a record of any injuries that you suffered in the accident because an insurer will ask for evidence of any medical expenses or missed work. Keep a copy of your doctor’s report and all your medical bills.
Notify your auto insurance company (even if you are a pedestrian or cyclist) about the accident. Do not discuss fault or liability with your insurer or any one else or provide a recorded statement, either verbally or in writing, without the advice of an attorney. If you do not have an individual auto insurance policy, you may be covered under a family or household auto policy. As a pedestrian or cyclist, you may have some insurance coverage under a homeowners or renters’ policy. Some people request specific riders on their homeowners policy, or obtain a separate insurance policy, to cover their bike, golf cart, or other non-motorized vehicle. Contact your insurance company to find out about your coverage for personal injuries and property damage.
Call a personal injury attorney. An attorney can advise you on your rights after you have been hit by a car walking or riding on Delaware roads. You have to deal with the other people involved in the accident, their insurers, and your own insurance company, who will all be trying to protect themselves and reduce their own liability in the accident. All of this has to be managed while you are also coping with physical injuries and emotional trauma from the accident. An experienced attorney can review the relevant insurance coverage, handle the insurers and paperwork, and protect you from lowball compensation offers and attempts by other parties to reduce their liability after an accident. An attorney will also ensure that you include ALL of your losses and expenses as a result of an accident in your claim. It is common for victims to underestimate their losses because they do not appreciate all of the types of losses that they can recover, present and future. It is also well known that unrepresented plaintiffs received lower compensation and settlement amounts than victims who have legal representation.
Road accidents are complex and, unfortunately, common. Our attorneys represent victims of all types of accidents on Delaware roads - car accidents, trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents - and help them to get the compensation that they deserve from an insurance company or at-fault driver. We have been helping victims from our local Delaware offices for decades, and we know the roads, the laws, and the courts of the First State, and the strategies used to try to reduce your compensation after an accident.
At Morris James, our attorneys have been standing up for victims since we opened our doors in 1932. If you have other questions about pedestrian or cycling accidents, contact us online or call us at 302.655.2599 to learn more.