Each state follows slightly different rules when it comes to slip and fall lawsuits and insurance claims. In the following paragraphs, we'll examine some key Delaware laws related to slip and fall cases, including the time limits for filing a claim in court, and what happens if you are found to be partly at fault for your own slip and fall injury. We'll also look at the special rules that apply to claims against a state, city, or county government in Delaware.
This article focuses on Delaware laws. For more information about slip and fall claims in general, check out all the articles in our slip and fall claims section.
In Delaware, you have three years from the date of a slip and fall accident to file a case in court. This three years typically starts from the date of the accident and includes weekends and holidays. If you do not file your case within this three-year "window," your case will be barred from court automatically.
This time limit does not apply to claims you make against an insurance company (such as the property owner's insurance carrier). In any case, it's a good idea to file your insurance claim as soon as you can after an injury occurs. If you wait too long, the insurance company may try to argue that you didn't start the claim process within a "reasonable time." Besides that, filing the claim promptly helps preserve your three-year window of opportunity for filing a lawsuit in court, giving you the chance to go to court if you decide to later on, or at least to use the threat of going to court as a bargaining chip in case settlement negotiations break down.
Delaware uses a "modified comparative fault" rule to decide how to handle cases in which the person injured in a slip and fall accident is determined to be partly at fault for what happened. Delaware's modified comparative fault rule reduces or eliminates damages if the injured person is found partly at fault.
Here's an example of how modified comparative fault works in Delaware. Suppose that you're walking down a boat company's dock to a boat you've just rented. It's a beautiful day, and the sight of the sunny sky distracts you so that you take your eyes off the dock. Unfortunately, this means you don't see a giant hole in the dock in front of you. You trip on the hole, suffering injury.
You decide to file an insurance claim or take your case to court to seek damages. After examining the facts of your claim or the evidence presented in your court case, the insurance adjuster or jury decides that your total damages equal $10,000. However, the adjuster or jury also decides that you were 30 percent at fault for not looking where you were going, and the boat rental company is 70 percent at fault for not spotting and fixing the giant hole in its dock.
How does this fault determination affect your insurance settlement or jury award? Under Delaware's modified comparative fault rule, an amount equal to the percentage of your fault is subtracted from the total settlement or award, and you receive what's left. In this example, that means you can receive $7,000, or the $10,000 total minus $3,000 that represents your 30 percent of the fault.
Because Delaware is a "modified" comparative fault state, it's important to remember that the calculation used here is only applied if your fault is less than 50 percent. If you are found to be 50 percent or more at fault, your damages award drops to zero, and you cannot collect any damages from any other at-fault party.
If a government office or government employee was involved in your Delaware slip and fall claim, a different set of rules applies. For claims against the state government and a city or county government, you have one year from the date of your accident to notify the government about your claim. Notification must be made in writing to the Delaware Office of the Attorney General or to the head of the city or county government involved in your accident. More information about suits against Delaware government agencies or employees is available in Title 10, Chapter 40 of the Laws of Delaware.