New Hampshire Auto Accident Laws and Resources
From Manchester to Plymouth to Keene, you have plenty of scenic roads to explore in New Hampshire. As you drive across this scenic, small state, you can see Weirs Beach, the White Mountains, the Lakes Region and Merrimack Valley. There are 1 million licensed drivers in New Hampshire, and they are involved in many minor and serious car accidents every year. Wherever you are living or visiting in the Granite State, it is important to have enough auto insurance as there are legal requirements regarding its use. It also is important to know the laws and regulations of the state when you drive. That way, you know what to do if you are in a car accident.
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Statistics and Notable Car Accident Lawsuits
The state DMV reported in 2016 that more people died in car crashes that year than in 2015. At the time of the report, there had been 57% more fatal accidents. Public safety officials stated that distracted driving and opioid abuse could have been major factors. But they also said that the lack of snow that year may have caused more fatal crashes. Why is this?
When there is a lot of snow, there are a higher number of large snowbanks on the roads. These are called by some in law enforcement and public safety ‘parachutes,’ which can cushion the blow in car accident. That year, there was less snow and fewer ‘parachutes’ to provide a cushion in an accident. There also were more people driving that year because of the better weather.
DMV stated that 58 people were killed in 55 motor crashes from Jan. 1 to June 26 in 2016. That was compared to 38 deaths in 35 crashes over the same period in 2015. Of the 55 fatal accidents that year, 12 of them occurred in Rockingham County. Nine were reported in Hillsborough and Grafton counties. Six occurred in Stafford County and five each in Merrimack and Cheshire counties.
The DMV noted that part of the reason for the higher number of deaths was the growing opioid epidemic. State police think up to 35% of the deaths involved operators under the influence of drugs. That number has been up to 60% of crash deaths in other years. DMV data also showed fatal accidents involving pedestrians had increased in the first six months of 2016. There were eight fatalities with pedestrians from Jan. 1 to June 26, 2016 – an increase from only two in the same time in 2015.
A major car accident settlement that was widely reported this year was a $9 million award given to a Hampton, New Hampshire couple who sued after the wife was struck by a car as she was walking along Ocean Blvd. in Brentwood. The state of New Hampshire will be required to pay part of the settlement.
Karen Weinhold won $8.5 million for her accident pain and suffering, and her husband will get $500,000. Weinhold and a friend were hit and severely injured as they were walking along the road in June 2014. The man who hit them was Remi Gross-Santos. It was decided by the jury that he should pay $2.7 million.
Pedestrian traffic had been moved from one side of the street to the other that year. The jury determined the company Audley Construction that was doing work on the seawall that caused the traffic change, should also need to pay $2.7 million. The 40% left had to be paid by the state.
The attorney for the Weinholds stated the decision by Audley Construction to move pedestrians from a protected spot around the construction zone to an unprotected one, was a contributing factor to the accident. Also, a major factor was that the driver fell asleep behind the wheel.
Weinhold stated in the trial she had spinal injuries and a complex leg fracture from the accident. She stated her neck is so damaged that a fall could be deadly for her. She said her current medical bills are nearly $900,000.
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Auto Insurance Requirements in New Hampshire
New Hampshire is different from many states in that it does not specifically mandate you have auto insurance. However, it does require that all drivers must be able to meet financial responsibilities if they are in a car accident. If you do not do so, you can be fined and even put in jail. Under the tort system of New Hampshire, you could be liable for medical damages, lost wages, and pain and suffering if you are responsible for a car accident.
Below are the insurance requirements for this state:
- $25,000 bodily injury per person per accident
- $50,000 bodily injury for all persons per accident
- $25,000 property damage liability
- $1000 medical payments coverage for each accident
- $25,000/$50,000 uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage
New Hampshire does not mandate you to have additional insurance coverage such as personal liability insurance or comprehensive or collision. But, if you own a lot of property or have assets, it is wise to have more than the minimum coverage to shield you from a major financial loss in an accident.
New Hampshire Accident Settlement Taxes
Did you get a personal injury settlement in New Hampshire? A logical question is whether you will need to pay state and federal taxes on the money. Generally, you do not need to pay taxes on the money, but there are several exceptions to be aware of so you do not get in hot water with the state or IRS.
The IRS will always exclude income that you receive because of physical injuries. But there are some cases where you need to pay the tax man:
- Emotional distress: If you are compensated for any emotional distress NOT related to a physical injury, this money is taxable as income. But your actual medical costs are not taxable as income.
- Punitive damages: If you receive damages that go beyond pain and suffering and are received by you to punish the defendant, these are punitive damages and will always be taxable as income.
- Interest: If you receive any interest on your personal injury settlement, this is taxable as income by New Hampshire and by the federal government.
This is a general summary of tax laws as they apply to personal injury settlements, but it is important to run your case across the desk of an experienced tax advisor to ensure that you are operating within the law tax wise.
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Negligence Laws in New Hampshire
In some personal injury cases in this state, the jury will determine fault is shared between the two drivers. This is known as a modified comparative fault rule. This simply means the rule reduces the amount of damages you can collect depending upon your degree of fault. For example, if you are in an accident with another driver where he rear ends you and you suffer $10,000 in damages, you would be entitled to that full amount if he was 100% at fault. But what if your brake lights were not working when you were stopped? The jury could determine you were partially at fault because of nonfunctioning brake lights. If they decide you are 20% at fault, you could have your award reduced to $8000.
Also, in this state, you can collect damages if you share fault for the accident, but only if your fault is less than 50%. If it is 50% or more, you cannot collect damages.
Car Accident Statute of Limitations in New Hampshire
This state has a deadline or statute of limitations to file a personal injury lawsuit. Per Section 508.4 of the New Hampshire Revised Statute, there is a three-year statute of limitations that applies to most personal actions in the state. This covers lawsuits that arise from a car accident. Typically, the clock starts on the date of the accident, but it also could start on the date that you were made aware of an injury resulting from the accident.
If a person died due to the car accident, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within three years of the death of the person. In either case, it is important to file the case well before the three-year deadline approaches so you have more leverage during settlement negotiations.
Other New Hampshire Driving and Accident Laws
There are several pertinent laws to know if you are in an accident in New Hampshire. First, there is a ban on texting for every driver in New Hampshire. The penalty for texting and driving is severe: You can have your driver’s license suspended and be fined $1000 if you cause an accident that causes property damage or hurts someone. Otherwise, the fine for texting and driving is $100. Second, all children must be in a safety seat until they are seven, or have reached a height of 57 inches, whichever is first. Third, as of 2014, the speed limit on the major north/south highway has been increased to 70 MPH from mile marker 45 to the border of Vermont.
Note there is no cap on damages in New Hampshire for personal injury cases.
New Hampshire Car Accident Resources
If you have been in a car accident in New Hampshire, we recommend that you consider the resources and information listed below.
- If have serious accident injuries, you will be facing large medical bills and potential loss of work. To obtain a better idea of what your settlement could be, check with the Lawsuit Info Center. We can pair you with a licensed attorney who can help you to get a ballpark idea of what the case could be worth. Most attorneys can access recent settlements and verdicts in your city or state. He can check what types of awards are common in the recent past for people with your injuries.
- Per state law, any car accident that causes death, personal injury or damages more than $1000 must be reported in writing to the DMV within 15 calendar days. If the police did NOT investigate the crash, it is your responsibility to file an Operator’s Report.
- If the police respond to a crash and you cannot provide your insurance information, he may issue you this insurance verification form DSMV 385, also called a Blue Card. This form must be sent to the NH DMV.
- As the accident is being investigated and you consider filing a claim or lawsuit, you may need a copy of the crash report. You can do so with this form, DSMV 505.
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