Like every state, New Hampshire has different laws that affect how car accident lawsuits and settlements might play out. In this article, we'll look at some of these laws, including how much time you have to file a lawsuit after a crash, and how your compensation might be affected if you're partly at fault for the accident.
Anyone who has suffered personal injuries or property damage after a car accident in New Hampshire has three years to file a lawsuit seeking compensation from whoever was at-fault. This law is codified at New Hampshire Revised Statutes 508:4. For car accident lawsuits, the three-year clock starts running on the day of the crash. Drivers who wait more than three years to file their lawsuit will likely find that they have lost their right to go to court over the car accident.
Three years sounds like a long time, but if you're dealing with injuries or property damage after a crash, it can fly by. That's why it's wise to file an insurance claim as soon as possible after the accident.
Keep in mind that the three-year time limit does not affect how long you have to file a claim with an insurance carrier (whether yours or the other driver's), but filing early gives you and the carrier plenty of time to investigate the accident and to negotiate for a fair settlement. If negotiations fail, you'll still have time to go to court -- and merely being able to say that you're ready to file a lawsuit can be an important bargaining chip.
One thing to consider: if your accident involved a government employee or government property (say you were hit by a city bus), you'll need to follow a different set of rules, and you'll likely have a lot less than three years to get your claim started. Check with the agency that was involved in your accident and ask about the administrative claim filing process for injuries.
New Hampshire is a "modified" comparative fault state when it comes to sorting out compensation for an injury when the claimant his/herself shares some amount of blame. To understand how modified comparative fault works, we'll look at an example.
Suppose that you are in a crash involving one other driver, and you file a lawsuit seeking compensation for medical bills, lost income, and other losses. The jury decides that the total damages amount should be $100,000, and also finds that the other driver is 90 percent at fault for the accident, and that you are 10 percent at fault.
How does this affect your damages award? Under the modified comparative fault rule, you will receive the total amount of your damages, minus a portion equal to your percentage of fault for the accident. So, in this example, you will receive $90,000 -- the $100,000 total, minus the $10,000 that represents your share of fault. This rule applies if you are anywhere from 0 percent to 49 percent at fault for the accident.
Since New Hampshire is a "modified" comparative fault state instead of a "pure" comparative fault state, the rules change once you reach the 50 percent fault level. If the jury finds you are 50 percent or more at fault for the crash, you receive nothing at all. (In a "pure" comparative fault state, by contrast, you'd receive damages minus your share of the fault no matter how much fault you were assigned.) Modified comparative fault only allows you to recover damages if you were less than 50 percent at fault for the accident -- something to consider when you're deciding whether or not to file a court case.
New Hampshire requires drivers to have certain types and amounts of auto insurance coverage. To learn more about these requirements and how they might affect your car accident case, see our companion article Car Insurance Laws in New Hampshire.