Don’t skimp on automobile insurance — your kids may be the ones who need it after a serious car accident

Don’t victimize your kids by skimping on auto insurance!

ben-schwartz-workingI have had a number of Delaware car accident personal injury and wrongful death cases recently where parents unknowingly harmed their kids by skimping on auto insurance. Here are a few of examples:

1. Mother insured her vehicle with a Delaware minimum limits ($15,000) insurance policy. Her boyfriend was driving her somewhere in her vehicle. He ran a red light and pulled out in front of an oncoming truck. She was killed. Her children split a $15,000 insurance settlement. They each got about $3,000 for the loss of their mother.

2. Dad bought auto insurance for his son’s vehicle. He waved uninsured motorist coverage. Son had a very severe accident with an uninsured motorist. Not only did Son not get anything from the at-fault driver who was uninsured, but he got nothing from his own insurance company either. He could have had a million dollar Uninsured Motorist claim if Dad hadn’t waived coverage!

3. Dad had a $300,000 auto policy. When son turned 16, Dad bought him a vehicle and set up a new policy with a $100,000 limit. Son was then in an accident with catastrophic injuries. When they made claims with the insurance companies, they found out that the son was excluded from coverage on the Dad’s $300,000 policy. They thought he would have been included so that the son would have the benefit of both policies, but he wasn’t! The $100,000 limit was nowhere near enough to even begin paying medical bills.

These are just three examples of how insurance companies have taken advantage of parents who didn’t take time to learn about what they were doing. The insurance companies were happy to accept the policy premium payments from the parents, but when it came time to pay out to the kids for their losses from these very serious Delaware car accident cases, the insurance companies didn’t have to pay what they should have.

In the rush to get you to switch from your insurance company to theirs, the insurance companies cut out all types of important coverage. They leave you with a policy that does not provide you the coverage that you need.

When you buy discounted auto coverage, you should know that you may be leaving your kids hanging (as well as yourself). Rather than spending 15 minutes to try to save 15% on your auto coverage, why not visit a qualified insurance broker? Have the insurance broker review your coverages with you to make sure that you understand what you’re getting… and more importantly, understand what you are not getting.

Ben Schwartz



Would you rather sue a nine year old or a dog after a car accident?

A recent News Journal article reported on Dover resident Tammy Oneal who got caught letting her son drive to W. Reilly Brown Elementary School. The boy is 9 years old. Apparently, after the kid got to school, he jumped out of the driver’s side of the car. Ms. Oneal got out of the passenger side, walked around to get behind the wheel, and drove off. This was witnessed by a number of bystanders, who called police and reported the young motorist. The News Journal reported that Ms. Oneal told officers that the boy had been driving since he was 5.
In a completely unrelated news story, the Australian newspaper The Telegraph reported yesterday on a dog named Woodley who took his owner’s motorhome for a joyride. Apparently, Woodley watched the owner release the hand brake on the RV many times, and figured out how to do it himself. The owner, Richard McCormack, reported that “The Handbrake is on the dashboard and he’s seen me release it many times. He’s just copying me. He’s tried it on before.” Woodley apparently put both paws on the wheel, and drove the motor home down the road while McCormack had left him alone to go into a repair shop. He drove past a store clerk named Phil Newton, who chased after him, jumped in through an open window and jammed on the brakes before the RV ran into someone or something. It was “about to run into a parked car when I stopped it”, stated Newton.
Reading these articles made me wonder. If one of these motorists hit and injured my client in a car accident in Delaware, would I rather sue the 9 year old and his mother, or would I prefer to sue the dog’s owner?
If I sued the 9 year old and his mother, I would have to prove negligence. In other words, I would have to prove that the kid did something wrong while driving. It probably wouldn’t be enough simply that he drove while unlicensed and under age. I would have to prove he ran a red light or stop sign, or that he was driving inattentively, and that’s what caused the accident to happen. Once I proved he did something wrong, I would need a jury to hold him personally responsible by entering a money judgment against him.

Once I prove the boy did something wrong, his mother would be strictly liable under 21 Del.C. Section 6105. That section of the Delaware Code states: Every owner of a motor vehicle who causes or knowingly permits a minor under the age of 18 years to drive such vehicle upon a highway and any person who gives or furnishes a motor vehicle to such minor shall be jointly and severally liable with such minor for any damages caused by the negligence of such minor in driving such vehicle, and the negligence of such minor shall be imputed to such owner or such person for all purposes of civil damages.

But if I sued the dog’s owner, I wouldn’t have to prove that the dog broke the law – the dog owner would be strictly liable. Delaware has a strict liability statute that holds responsible owners of dogs that cause injury. Strict liability means that, as the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit for a Delaware dog-related injury, the injured person does not have to prove that the owner was negligent in permitting the dog to attack. The Delaware Code, Title 9, Section 913 provides as follows: The owner of a dog is liable in damages for any injury, death or loss to person or property that is caused by such dog, unless the injury, death or loss was caused to the body or property of a person who, at the time, was committing or attempting to commit a trespass or other criminal offense on the property of the owner, or was committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense against any person, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog.
So the bottom line is this: It’s better to have a case against a dog than a case against a nine year old. It would be much easier to prove a personal injury case against a dog and his owner than against an elementary school student, at least in Delaware, because we have strict liability for dog-related injuries (whether the injuries are caused by a dog bite or not).
Ben Schwartz

Delaware personal injury attorney Ben Schwartz accepts representation in automobile accidents involving car accidents, motorcycle accidents and tractor-trailer or commercial motor vehicle accidents in Wilmington, Odessa, Middletown, Smyrna, Dover, Milford, Georgetown, Lewes, Rehoboth, Hartly, Harrington, and Seaford, Delaware.