If you've been injured or had your vehicle damaged after any kind of traffic accident in New Hampshire, now is probably a good time to take a close look at your legal options. In this article, we'll discuss a number of state laws that could have a big impact on any car accident claim you decide to make in New Hampshire, and we'll look at the legal obligations of drivers when it comes to reporting a crash.
A "statute of limitations" is a state law that sets a strict time limit on your right to bring a lawsuit to court.
It's important to note that the statute of limitations does not apply to a car insurance claim. Any insurance company, whether your own or the other driver's, is going to require you to make a claim -- or at least give the insurer notice of an incident that could trigger a claim -- "promptly" or "within a reasonable time" after the accident. That usually means a matter of days, or a few weeks at most.
Now, onto the law in New Hampshire, where New Hampshire Revised Statutes section 508:4 contains a "catch-all" three-year statute of limitations that applies to most "personal actions," which means it covers almost all lawsuits arising from a vehicle accident, including those over car accident injuries and damage to a vehicle or other property.
So, if anyone was injured in the crash -- including a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian -- or had their vehicle or other personal property damaged, they must get their lawsuit filed against any potential defendant within three years. For these injury and property damage cases, the three-year "clock" starts running on the date of the accident.
If someone died as a result of the car accident, and their family member or a representative of the estate wants to file a wrongful death claim against the person responsible for the crash, the same three-year deadline applies, but the "clock" starts running on the day of the accident victim’s death (which could be later than the date of the accident itself).
Why is it so important to understand and abide by the statute of limitations? If you try to file your lawsuit after the statutory deadline has already passed, the defendant is sure to ask the court to dismiss the case, and the court is very likely to agree that a dismissal is appropriate.
Even if you're confident that your case will be resolved through the car insurance claim process, you'll want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit in case you need to -- if for no other reason than that you’ll have more leverage during settlement talks. If you think you could be running up against the filing deadline, you may want to contact an experienced New Hampshire car accident attorney.
Suppose you're seriously injured in a New Hampshire car accident, and you take your case to court. The jury, after hearing all the evidence, decides that the other driver was responsible for the accident -- but that you too bear part of the blame. What happens next? How does this verdict affect your right to compensation?
Under New Hampshire Revised Statutes section 507:7-d, the state follows a modified "comparative negligence" rule. This means you can still recover damages in a car-accident-related lawsuit, but your award will be reduced according to your share of negligence. And if your share of fault is greater than that of the defendant(s) (you're deemed more at fault than everyone you're suing, in other words), you can't recover anything at all in court.
For instance, suppose that the jury determines that your injuries, pain and suffering, and other losses total $10,000. However, the jury also thinks that you were 10 percent responsible for the crash. In that situation, the total amount of your damages, $10,000, is reduced by 10 percent, or $1,000, leaving you with a total award of $9,000.
The comparative negligence rule binds New Hampshire judges and juries (if your car accident case winds its way to trial), and it will also guide a car insurance claims adjuster when he or she is evaluating your case. Also keep in mind that since there is no empirical means of allocating fault, any assignment of liability will ultimately come down to your ability to negotiate with a claims adjuster or to persuade a judge or jury.
According to New Hampshire Revised Statutes section 264:25, the driver of a vehicle that is involved in a traffic accident must report the crash -- in writing to the Division of Motor Vehicles, within 15 days -- if any person was injured or killed, or if there was property damage in excess of $1,000.
In almost every New Hampshire car accident scenario, insurance coverage is sure to play a key role, so it's important to understand the state's liability auto insurance requirements and other coverage rules that could affect your car accident claim. Get the details on New Hampshire's car insurance rules.