New Hampshire requires that the owner of a registered motor vehicle must comply with the state's Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (FRL). In the simplest terms, this means proving that they can pay for personal injuries and property damage they cause in an accident. You'll find the FRL at Chapter 264 of the New Hampshire Revised Statutes.
We start with an overview of New Hampshire's fault-based auto insurance law. Because most drivers comply with the FRL by buying an insurance policy, we'll detail the types and amounts of insurance the state requires you to have. But that's not all you need to know.
Is the auto insurance New Hampshire requires really enough to protect you? When you buy a policy, what drivers and vehicles are covered? Are there other kinds of insurance you should think about adding? We'll answer these questions and more.
New Hampshire has adopted a traditional fault-based auto insurance system. A driver who causes an accident is liable (legally responsible) for all resulting injuries and other losses. To show that they can pay compensation (what the law calls "damages") to those who've been harmed, the law requires "proof of financial responsibility."
There are different ways to comply with the law. For example, you can deposit money or securities with the state treasurer. (N.H. Rev. Stat. § 264.22 (2024).) But the easiest way is simply to buy an auto insurance policy with the minimum coverages New Hampshire's FRL requires (discussed below). (N.H. Rev. Stat. § 264.21 (2024).)
When you're injured or your property is damaged in a collision that's not your fault, you can bring an insurance claim—or, if necessary, file a lawsuit—to collect damages from the responsible party. You'll need to prove that the other driver was negligent, and that their negligence caused your injuries.
If—like the overwhelming majority of New Hampshire auto owners—you satisfy the FRL by buying auto insurance, you'll need to buy liability coverage in at least these amounts:
In the insurance business, this is often referred to as "25/50/25 liability coverage."
Your liability insurance will pay damages—up to the limits of your coverage—to others who are injured or whose property is damaged in an accident that's your fault. Suppose you cause a collision that injures another driver and their passenger. Your liability insurance will compensate them for their injuries, up to your policy limits.
What kinds of damages does liability insurance pay for? Here's a partial list:
Keep in mind that your liability insurance only pays for damages you cause to others. It won't pay you for your own losses.
Your liability insurance covers—meaning it will pay for accident-related damages caused by—you as a named insured, and all others who are named as insured under your policy. Your spouse and other family members who live with you should be covered. Under N.H. Rev. Stat. § 264:18.VI (2024), anyone driving your vehicle with your permission (a permissive user) is covered too.
The auto listed in your policy is insured. So is any non-owned auto being driven by you or any relative living with you, but only if there's no other insurance available for the non-owned auto. (N.H. Rev. Stat. § 259:61.II (2024).) This would include, for example, a rental car or a loaner car you're driving while yours is in the shop.
Under New Hampshire law, every liability policy issued in the state must also include:
Of course, your insurance company won't just throw these coverages in for free. You'll pay additional premiums for them.
Uninsured motorist (UM) insurance. N.H. Rev. Stat. § 264:15.I (2024) requires that every auto insurance policy issued in New Hampshire must include uninsured motorist coverage with bodily injury limits of at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. If you elect higher liability limits than those required by state law, the UM limits must equal the liability amounts you choose.
Uninsured motorist insurance is designed to take the place of an uninsured driver's liability insurance. In other words, if you're hurt in a collision caused by an uninsured driver (or a hit-and-run driver), your UM insurance will pay your bodily injury damages, up to your coverage limit.
Note that UM insurance doesn't pay for property damage. If you want that coverage—and you probably do, so you can get your vehicle repaired—you'll need to buy additional insurance. See below.
Medical payments (MedPay) insurance. In addition to liability and UM coverages, a New Hampshire auto policy must also include MedPay insurance with a per-person limit of at least $1,000. (N.H. Rev. Stat. § 264:16.I (2024).) As the name suggests, MedPay insurance will pay the accident-related medical bills of you or your passengers for up to three years after the date of an accident, regardless of who was to blame.
Don't wait until you've been in a wreck to find out that you should've bought more liability insurance. Or that you need a kind of auto insurance you didn't buy. Visit your insurance agent or lawyer to see what coverage gaps you need to fill.
Is New Hampshire's 25/50/25 liability coverage enough, or do you need more? The answer is: It depends. If you're responsible for an accident that results in only minor injuries or property damage, the state's minimums should be enough.
But the same won't be true if you're at fault for an accident that causes moderate, severe, or catastrophic injuries. In that case, you'll burn through New Hampshire's liability minimums in no time. Remember that your liability insurance is meant to protect your assets when you're on the hook for accident-related damages. It might be the only thing standing between you and financial disaster.
If you can afford it, buy more liability insurance. It'll prove to be a wise investment, should the worst happen.
If it's within your budget, you want what's called a "full-coverage" auto policy. In addition to the coverages New Hampshire requires—liability, UM, and MedPay—a full coverage policy will also include:
Collision insurance. When your car is damaged in a collision, your collision insurance will pay to repair it—even if you were to blame. If your car's a total loss, collision insurance typically pays for its actual cash value, or ACV. Actual cash value equals the market value of a similar year, make, and model vehicle, less depreciation. The insurance company will write you a check for ACV minus your collision deductible.
There are a couple of things to know about collision insurance. First, if your financed car is totaled, don't count on your collision payout being enough to pay off the balance of your loan. There's a chance you'll come up short. If you're worried about this, check with your insurance agent about gap insurance, which will make up the difference.
Second, if you finance the purchase of a new vehicle, your lender will require you to have collision insurance. Don't let the coverage lapse before your loan is paid off, or the lender might buy collision insurance itself (called "force-placed coverage") and add the premium to your monthly payment.
Comprehensive insurance. Comprehensive insurance protects you when your auto is damaged or destroyed by something other than a collision with another vehicle. For example, if your car is damaged in a hail storm, comprehensive insurance will pay to repair it.
In the event of a total loss, comprehensive insurance pays you just like collision insurance does—meaning ACV minus your comprehensive deductible. Similarly, your lender or leasing company will require this insurance if you finance a new car.
You might want to consider other types of insurance, too. For example, perhaps you want loss of use coverage, which will reimburse you for the cost of a rental car while yours is out of service. Towing and storage insurance will pay for the cost to tow your auto and to store it pending a determination of your collision or comprehensive insurance payout.
These coverages and more are available—for an additional premium.
There are three ways you can collect damages for your injuries and losses after a car accident. You can file:
When you bring a claim against your own insurance, it's called a "first-party claim." In some circumstances—like a collision with an uninsured driver—a first-party claim is likely to be your only option. You can collect damages for your personal injuries under your UM insurance, and your collision insurance will pay to repair your damaged car.
You'll also need to rely on a first-party claim when you're to blame for a wreck. For example, the only way to get your car repaired (other than paying for it out of your own pocket) will be by making a claim under your collision coverage.
Other times, you might choose to bring a first-party claim in addition to a third-party claim. Suppose that another driver caused an accident that left you with injuries and your car badly damaged. You can bring a third-party claim against that driver (see below), but it will take some time to get a payout.
While that claim is being resolved, you might submit your medical bills under your MedPay insurance to get them paid more quickly. Your collision insurance will pay to get your car back on the road while you haggle with the insurance company over your property damage payout.
You'll file a third-party insurance claim against an at-fault driver who has auto liability insurance. Unlike a claim against your own insurer, a third-party claim is likely to be more adversarial. In many cases, it will take weeks or even months to reach a settlement.
Starting a third-party claim is normally a simple matter. Use the insurer's website or claim reporting app and follow the instructions there. Best practice is to follow your electronic notice with a written claim notice letter.
Be sure to notify your own insurance company too, even if you don't plan to make a first-party claim. The other driver might decide to file a claim against you. Your insurance policy requires that you give the company prompt notice of any accident.
Most auto accident claims settle. If yours doesn't, you can file a car accident lawsuit against the responsible driver. Before you do, though, talk your case over with an experienced lawyer. Lawsuits are time consuming and expensive. You don't want to waste your time or money if there's little chance that a lawsuit will prove to be a smart financial decision.
Keep a close eye on New Hampshire's auto accident lawsuit deadline. Called the "statute of limitations," you'll find this deadline at N.H. Rev. Stat. § 508:4.I (2024). You must file your car accident lawsuit within three years, usually from the date of the accident.
There might be exceptions to this deadline that give you a bit more time, but don't count on it. If you file your case after the limitation period runs out, the court will dismiss it. You'll lose your right to sue, forever.
If you've been injured in a New Hampshire auto accident, your best bet will be to speak with a car accident lawyer. This is someone who understands the state's FRL, knows how insurance coverages work, and can guide you on the path to collecting damages for your injuries.
If you're ready to move forward with your car accident case, here's how to find a lawyer in your area.