According to the latest published data in the New Hampshire Office of Highway Safety’s proposed Highway Safety Plan for 2023, a total of 108 non-fatal bicycle crashes occurred throughout the state in 2021. Five individuals sustained incapacitating injuries, while 51 suffered non-incapacitating harm. In terms of fatalities in the same year, the state recorded two bicycle-related deaths, which is the same total for 2017, 2018, and 2020.
With each year that passes, government agencies in New Hampshire renew their efforts to ensure that the average number of injury-related and fatal bicycle accidents remains within a low threshold. The state imposes various traffic guidelines and ordinances that specifically cover bicycles to help riders avoid crashes and collisions. These include regulations on bicycle use and required equipment.
Those who end up being injured and suffering financial losses in a bicycle-related accident may turn to New Hampshire’s insurance rules and personal injury laws to see how much compensation they can potentially obtain from at-fault parties. These statutes also help victims weigh their legal and financial options based on contributing factors such as negligence and limitations in terms of time and damage caps.
New Hampshire Bicycle Helmet and Equipment Regulations
New Hampshire law requires all bicyclists under the age of 16 to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. However, those 16 and older are still encouraged to wear helmets for protection against potentially serious injuries if an accident occurs. Helmets must match the standards set by the state’s Commissioner of Health and Human Services.
In addition to helmets, bicyclists must have the proper equipment required by state law. These include brakes that enable a bicycle to stop within 25 feet on any dry, clean, and level pavement at a speed of 10mph. When used at night, a bicycle must also have a rear reflector and a front lamp that emits white light, both visible from a minimum distance of 300 feet. A rear lamp reflecting a red light visible from the same minimum distance can be used alongside a reflector.
Other types of required equipment include pedal reflectors visible from the front and rear of the bicycle from up to 200 feet for nighttime riding. Those operating a bicycle with clipless pedals must wear light-reflective equipment or reflectorized leg bands. Lastly, bicycles cannot be equipped with any kind of siren.
Bicycle Operation Guidelines in New Hampshire
To prevent accidents from happening and ensure that the flow of traffic remains smooth and safe, bicyclists are required to follow various guidelines when riding on New Hampshire roads and bicycle paths designated by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. This is part of their responsibility on the road since state law declares that bicyclists have the same rights and duties as motorists.
New Hampshire’s bicycle operation guidelines include the following:
A bicycle may not carry more people than it was designed for.
No bicyclist may ride on a bicycle in any way other than atop or astride a permanent and regular seat.
A bicyclist must always check the condition and functionality of their bicycle’s brakes, wheels, steering equipment, and other parts before riding.
Bicyclists must always obey traffic signs and signals.
Bicyclists must yield the right-of-way to approaching vehicles before entering a roadway.
Bicyclists must stop for all pedestrians on a crosswalk; no bicyclist is allowed to pass vehicles that are stopped at a crosswalk.
Bicyclists must always ride on the right side of the road and along with the flow of traffic; they can only leave the right side of the road when overtaking other vehicles, making left-hand turns, avoiding obstacles, or entering an intersection where right-hand turns are allowed.
Bicyclists must make the proper hand signals to alert motorists before stopping or turning; they may be exempt from making continuous hand signals if they need both hands to keep controlling and operating their bicycles.
No bicyclist may carry an object or package that prevents them from keeping at least one hand on their bicycle’s handlebars.
Bicyclists may ride two or more abreast as long as they do not impede the flow of traffic; when navigating laned roadways, they must ride in single file.
No bicyclist may attach their bicycle to any vehicle on the road.
New Hampshire DUI Law for Bicyclists
Because bicyclists in New Hampshire share the same duties and rights as motorists, anyone who operates a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any combination of these substances will be found guilty of a DUI offense. The same applies if any bicyclist’s BAC reaches or exceeds 0.08% or 0.02% if they are under 21 years of age.
Those charged with a DUI offense must pay a fine of up to $500 and may have their driver’s license and driving privileges suspended for a minimum of nine months. In addition, they must undergo drug and alcohol abuse screening within the first 14 days of their conviction. Prior to the reinstatement of their license and driving privileges, they can also be required to participate in an impaired driver education program. Stricter penalties are involved for subsequent offenses or if the offender causes an accident.
The state also follows the rule of implied consent, meaning that anyone who chooses to operate a bicycle or any vehicle automatically agrees to undergo a test to determine their BAC level. Any person who refuses to submit to a test will be fined accordingly and can face a license suspension lasting at least 180 days.
Is New Hampshire a No-Fault State for Bike Accidents?
No, New Hampshire is an at-fault state, meaning that those responsible for a bicycle accident will be financially responsible for the losses of any victims in terms of medical and repair costs. Although auto insurance is not required in the state, drivers must have proof of financial responsibility to demonstrate that they can pay for such damages if an accident occurs.
Motorists can use auto liability coverage to satisfy the state’s requirement for financial responsibility. In New Hampshire, the minimum amounts required for auto liability coverage are as follows:
$25,000 for bodily injuries involving one person
$50,000 for bodily injuries involving multiple people
$25,000 for any damaged property
In case an at-fault driver in a bicycle accident has no insurance or their policy fails to cover all the losses involved, victims may use uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage for reimbursement if they have such policies. The minimum amounts for uninsured and underinsured coverage are also $25,000 and $50,000 for the bodily injuries of one person and multiple people, respectively.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Bicycle Accident in New Hampshire?
In New Hampshire, there is no limit on the total amount of economic damages a bicycle accident victim can recover. Such damages include monetary costs related to medical care, repair expenses, lost wages, and long-term rehabilitation. However, the state imposes a limit of $875,000 on a victim’s total noneconomic damages. These refer to intangible losses caused by factors like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of companionship.
It should be noted that New Hampshire follows the principle of modified comparative fault for personal injury cases. Under this legal rule, bicycle accident victims will have their total damage award reduced if they were partially at fault for the accident. The deducted amount is equal to the percentage of the victim’s assigned fault; for example, if the victim is 30% at fault, they will only receive $70,000 from a damage award worth $100,000.
In addition, New Hampshire’s modified comparative fault rules adhere to a 51% threshold. Any victim whose fault in an accident case reaches or exceeds this threshold will be barred from recovering any damages.
What Is New Hampshire’s Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accidents?
The statute of limitations for injury and property damage claims stemming from bicycle accidents in New Hampshire is three years from the date of the accident. If a victim dies from their injuries, their dependents or any individual with a legal interest in their estate must file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit within the same deadline, starting from the date of the victim’s death.
However, New Hampshire’s statute of limitations may start on a different date if a victim does not reasonably discover an injury or complication caused by an accident until a later time. The statute will only begin on the date that the victim discovers or should reasonably have discovered such an injury.
The statute of limitations also functions differently in bicycle accident cases where the person entitled to file an injury claim or lawsuit is a minor. New Hampshire law dictates that the statute will only begin after the minor’s 18th birthday and will only last up to two years instead of three.
If a bicycle accident is caused by road defects, like a pothole, a victim can take legal action against the government entity or agency that is responsible for maintaining the road where the accident occurred. The three-year statute of limitations will still apply in such scenarios, but victims must file their claim in a county court within the same county where the accident happened. They must also notify the agency or entity involved with a written notice of their intent to sue within 180 days from the date of the accident.
Legal Resources for New Hampshire Bicycle Accident Victims
The New Hampshire Bar Association’s website has accessible services for state residents with legal concerns. The association’s Lawyer Referral Service allows potential plaintiffs to speak with a referral specialist who can connect them to specific attorneys throughout the state. Additionally, website visitors can take advantage of the association’s Lawline legal advice service, which allows them to ask questions to volunteer attorneys on the second Wednesday of each month between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. For additional inquiries concerning Lawline, people can contact the association at 800-868-1212.
Those who wish to obtain copies of accident reports can visit the website of the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles. When filing a request, state residents must submit a completed DSMV 505/Request for Motor Vehicle Records form to the department’s Concord DropBox. Each copy costs a minimum of $5, with $1 per page, and additional costs are relayed by the department’s staff via telephone or e-mail. People can contact the department via email at NH.DMVHelp@dos.nh.gov or 603-227-4010 if they wish to predetermine the cost of their requested report or make additional inquiries.
The New Hampshire Insurance Department’s website provides access to information on how to file insurance-related complaints against a specific licensee. Complainants can file a complaint online by completing the Online Consumer Complaint Form or via fax or mail by printing and submitting its printable version. For additional inquiries regarding a complaint or questions regarding specific insurance coverage types, state residents can contact one of the department’s consumer service officers at 800-852-3416.
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