Underinsured Motorist

Your right to Underinsured Motorist (UIM) benefits changed just last year, on January 3, 2014, following the amendment of 18 Del. C. § 3902(b)(2). The purpose of UIM coverage is to allow an insured to establish a fund to protect against losses caused by underinsured motorists. This is done by contracting supplemental insurance coverage from your automobile insurer. In a nutshell, UIM coverage provides additional insurance coverage when the tortfeasor’s bodily injury liability coverage fails to offer enough compensation for the injuries and damages sustained in a motor vehicle accident. (A tortfeasor is an individual who commits a tort, and in this context, is the individual who caused the motor vehicle accident).

While the purpose of the UIM coverage has remained the same, it is now easier to access this coverage. Prior to the statutory amendment, your right to UIM benefits was potentially limited and depended upon the amount of coverage under your own policy in comparison to the amount of coverage available through the tortfeasor’s policy. This comparison is no longer necessary. Now, so long as you have properly elected for UIM benefits, you are entitled to this coverage, regardless of the coverage available through the tortfeasor’s policy.

This amendment serves to benefit Delaware insureds and should be taken advantage of, as most, if not all, policies now in existence have been issued and/or amended following January 3, 2014.

If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident and question whether you may be entitled to such coverage, please contact Schmittinger & Rodriguez at (302) 674-0140.

Delaware Landlord Tenant Code

Are you a residential landlord or tenant, or have considered becoming a landlord or tenant? If so, you should familiarize yourself with Title 25 of the Delaware Code as it governs the obligations of a landlord and a tenant. Title 25 is incredibly detailed and may certainly leave you confused, particularly if you find yourself in conflict with your landlord or tenant.

Conflict often arises in the landlord/tenant scenario, and the reasons for such conflict vary. One common area of conflict arises when a tenant is late in paying his rent. However, the idea of a landlord marching down to the courthouse the moment the tenant’s rent is late is a farce. Eviction, otherwise known as summary possession, can certainly be done; however, specific guidelines must be followed under the Code to perfect such eviction. In fact, a tenant must be given specific written notice under the statute before summary possession may be properly sought.

In addition to late rental payments, the Landlord Tenant Code also addresses when a landlord is entitled to a late fee, a landlord’s obligation in producing the Landlord Tenant Code, the time period in which a security deposit must be returned, what a pet deposit may be used for, how much pet deposit is permitted, whether attorney fees are recoverable, and so on.

In addition to the Code, you should also be familiar with the terms of your rental agreement, as your rental agreement likely provides for additional duties and rights beyond the Code, such as whether a landlord is entitled to late fees.

There are many pitfalls and nuances associated with serving as a landlord and/or tenant. If you are a landlord or a tenant, or want additional information on what your obligations and/or rights might be, please call Schmittinger & Rodriguez at (302) 674-0140.

The United States Court of Appeals Decision

By William W. Pepper Sr.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently upheld a lower federal court decision dismissing discrimination claims against the City of Dover in connection with the 2010 reassessment of real estate. The Court held that the Tax Injunction Act precluded federal courts from hearing the claims when Delaware state courts could have provided a remedy for any alleged discrimination.

The Third Circuit is one of thirteen courts of appeal in the United States federal judicial system. It is one step below the Supreme Court of the United States. The Third Circuit hears appeals from the lower federal courts sitting in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

William W. Pepper Sr. represented the City of Dover in the litigation. He joined Schmittinger and Rodriguez in August 1985 and has served as deputy solicitor for the City of Dover since May 1989.