By Tiffany M. Shrenk, Esquire–
Delaware Personal Injury Attorneys now have an additional tool in their arsenal in handling and negotiating clients’ injury claims thanks to the new insurance disclosure law signed by the Governor this month.
The new disclosure law, codified at 21 Del. C. § 2907, applies to motor vehicle accident cases where a claim for personal injuries is made against a motor vehicle insurer. Prior to the new law, there was no requirement that an insurance company discloses its policy limits before the initiation of a lawsuit. That meant that when you filed your complaint, you did not know whether the defendant had the statutory minimum amount of coverage or had opted to higher limits. It was only after a case was initiated with the court that an insurance company was required to inform the attorney or injured individual of the amount of coverage available to compensate the injured party for his bodily injuries.
Under the new law, in order to obtain the disclosure of policy limits, the attorney must send a written request to the insurance carrier providing the date of the motor vehicle collision, the name and last known address of the at-fault person, a copy of the police report, and the claim number. Additionally, the attorney must forward the claimant’s medical records, medical bills, and lost wage documentation supporting the client’s injuries and damages. If the amount of the medical expenses and/or lost wages evidenced by the documentation totals at least $12,500, the insurance carrier is required to respond within thirty (30) days of receipt of the written request and provide the amount of coverage available under the policy.
The policy limits disclosure received by the insurance company is required to be kept confidential. The statute provides that the written disclosure of bodily injury limits is confidential and “available” only to the claimant, the attorney, and the attorney’s personnel. 21 Del. C. § 2907(g). The law also provides that the request can be made directly by the claimant if he/she is not represented by an attorney, but the claimant would still be required to provide the medical records, medical bills, and/or lost wages supporting the injury claim.
The original bill was introduced to the General Assembly early in the spring of this year and was sponsored by Representative Trey Charles Paradee and Senator David P. Sokola. The legislation went into effect as of September 4, 2018, the date it was signed into law. The new law is anticipated to reduce the number of lawsuits filed as a result of motor vehicle collisions. It can also be expected that the new law will assist attorneys in resolving their clients’ cases in a more prompt manner since the insurance company will be obligated to review the documentation and respond with the limits disclosure within the thirty-day deadline.