In 2022, the state of New Hampshire saw another increase in its rate of motor vehicle fatalities, with the state’s Department of Safety recording 139 deaths as a result of 130 fatal crashes. This is a big jump from the number of people who died in 2020 and 2021, 104 and 118, respectively.
While the causes of most of these reported accidents are still under investigation, the New Hampshire Office of Highway Safety found that the common factors in crashes and related deaths in the past few years throughout the state include speeding, alcohol intoxication, and distracted driving. It also found the failure of motorists to wear their seat belts as a contributing element.
With car accidents becoming potentially common among those who fail to follow traffic regulations in New Hampshire, the state continues to enforce laws to prevent crashes and collisions. It also has several guidelines that help drivers and passengers alike prepare for the legal and financial burdens involved if an accident occurs.
New Hampshire Speeding Law
New Hampshire law requires drivers to follow basic and presumed speed limits while operating a vehicle. Under a basic speed limit, people must drive at speeds that are safe and reasonable, taking into account both possible and actual dangers and the state of the road.
Under presumed speed limits, motorists are not immediately charged once they exceed any given limit, and they have the chance to prove they were driving at a safe speed based on the conditions present. This is in contrast to absolute speed limit mandates, which consider any instance of exceeding the limit to be a violation.
The presumed speed limits in New Hampshire are as follows:
10 mph below the given limits within school zones (This applies within 45 minutes before a school opens and 45 minutes after it closes.)
30 mph in residential or urban areas
35 mph in rural residential areas
55 mph on all other roads, excluding interstates
65 mph on the majority of interstates
Drivers are fined $62 for a first offense and $124 for a second offense if they violate basic speed limits. Maximum fines reach up to $496 depending on which limit is exceeded and the offender’s speed. Basic and presumed speed limit infractions also add three to four demerit points to a person’s driving record.
New Hampshire DUI/DWI Laws
Motorists in New Hampshire found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher while driving or attempting to operate a vehicle will be charged with drunk driving. For drivers who are under the age of 21, the BAC must not reach or exceed 0.02%. For commercial drivers, the BAC must not reach or go beyond 0.04%.
DWI charges also apply to motorists operating a car while under the influence of natural or synthetic substances, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and controlled substances.
Penalties for DUI/DWI charges depend on how many offenses a motorist has committed within the past 10 years.
A fine of $500 to $1,200
License suspension of 9 months to 2 years
A fine of $750 to $2,000
A jail sentence of at least 10 days to 1 year (A mandatory minimum sentence of 30 consecutive days applies if there is a prior conviction within the last 2 years.)
License suspension of 3 years
A fine of $750 to $2,000
A jail sentence of at least 6 months to 1 year (with a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 consecutive days)
Indefinite license suspension (cannot appeal for reinstatement for 5 years from the date of conviction)
In certain cases, repeat offenders can have part of their jail sentences suspended and enter a two-year probationary period instead. While on probation, they must comply with the Impaired Driver Care Management Program’s requirements and undergo a court-ordered drug and alcohol evaluation.
Offenders become eligible for probation after serving the following minimum sentences:
5 days (for second DWI offenses)
14 days (if the offender has a prior conviction within the last 2 years)
30 days (for third DWI offenses)
A DWI offense escalates into aggravated DWI, which is deemed a class A misdemeanor, if:
The offender had a passenger under 16 years old
The offender attempted to evade law enforcement personnel
The offender was exceeding speed limits by 30 mph or more
The offender had a blood alcohol content of 0.16% or more
Those charged with aggravated DWI face fines ranging from $750 to $2,000 and a jail sentence lasting anywhere from five days to one year. Their license will also be suspended for six months to two years, although this can be shortened to one year if they comply with the Impaired Driver Care Management Program.
If an aggravated DWI charge involves serious physical injury to others, the offender will be charged with a class B felony. A conviction carries penalties that include $1,000 to $4,000 in fines and a sentence lasting at least two weeks up to a maximum of seven years.
New Hampshire Distracted Driving Law
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month in New Hampshire, and the Department of Safety and Insurance reminds drivers of the dangers and consequences of driving while distracted. According to the state’s hands-free law, all drivers are prohibited from using their mobile phones or navigational devices on the road.
Motorists caught violating the hands-free law, whether by entertaining a phone call or sending a text message while driving, can be charged with reckless or negligent driving. They can also be convicted of vehicular assault if their behavior results in another person’s injury or death.
Offenders will get a ticket carrying a $100 fine on their first offense, $250 on their second offense, and $500 for any subsequent ones that occur within two years. These tickets include additional charges derived from penalty assessments. Distracted drivers may also face higher insurance premiums for each offense.
The hands-free law does not apply if:
A driver needs to make an emergency call
A driver has pulled over to the side of the road
A driver is answering a call through a Bluetooth connection or speaker (provided that the device is not picked up and held to the driver’s ear)
New Hampshire Seat Belt Regulations
Currently, New Hampshire is the only state that has no law explicitly requiring adult drivers and passengers to wear seat belts. However, the state does require those under the age of 18 to wear them while driving or riding in a vehicle.
Existing state laws also dictate that children under the age of seven must be safely restrained in child car seats or booster seats. In addition, these seats must adhere to the standards set by the federal government in terms of material and positioning. Such seats are not required for children aged 57 inches or more.
Residents of New Hampshire can learn more about proper child safety seats by visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website’s section on car and booster seats.
New Hampshire Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements
While New Hampshire motorists are not required to have auto insurance, they must prove that they can pay for any resulting damages if they are found to be at fault in an accident. This is in line with the state’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law.
As such, car owners can comply with said law by purchasing liability coverage or depositing money with the state treasurer. Those who choose to do the former must meet the following minimum requirements:
$25,000 for the bodily injury or death of one person
$50,000 for the total bodily injuries or deaths in an accident
$25,000 for total property damage
Getting liability coverage also requires motorists to purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, with the minimum required amounts equal to those for liability coverage. In addition, they must buy medical payment coverage worth at least $1,000 to cover any medical-related expenses incurred during the three-year period after a crash.
Any driver who fails to adhere to the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law and the liability coverage requirements can have their driving privileges suspended. They may also be required to purchase auto insurance for three years to regain their driving privileges in the state.
New Hampshire Is An “At-Fault” State for Insurance Claims
New Hampshire follows at-fault mandates for insurance claims in car accident cases. This means that those found to be at fault in an accident must bear the costs of any injuries and property damage through their liability coverage. This also indicates that victims can recover their losses by filing third-party claims or lawsuits against negligent drivers.
In addition to obtaining financial compensation, car accident victims can use any collision coverage they have to pay for the damage to their vehicles. They may also utilize their medical payment coverage in case they incur additional medical expenses in the next three years after the underlying accident. Both options apply regardless of who is at fault in the crash.
If an offending motorist has no liability coverage or does not have enough benefits to cover all the damage, victims can use their uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to recover their losses.
New Hampshire Is A Modified Comparative Negligence State for Car Accident Lawsuits
New Hampshire follows the rule of modified comparative negligence for car accident lawsuits. Those who are partially liable for a crash will have their awarded settlements reduced based on the percentage of their assigned fault. For example, a victim deemed 25% liable for an accident will receive only $75,000 of a damage award worth $100,000.
The state also follows a 51% bar rule for modified comparative negligence, meaning that any plaintiff whose fault is 51% or more in a car accident cannot recover any compensation.
In order for a driver to be deemed negligent and thus held liable for causing a motor vehicle crash, it must be proven that:
The driver owed a duty of reasonable care to other people by adhering to traffic rules (obeying speed limits, yielding the right-of-way, etc.)
The driver breached that duty by committing a moving violation or driving recklessly.
The driver’s breach of duty caused the plaintiff’s injury
The plaintiff suffered actual damages in the form of medical expenses, lost income, and damaged property
In proving a driver’s negligence, victims can gather and utilize various types of evidence with the help of a legal team. These can include:
The plaintiff’s photographs and/or video recordings of injuries and vehicle damage
Footage from surveillance cameras at nearby establishments
In the event that there are multiple defendants in a single accident, each defendant will be made to pay their own share of the damages based on the percentage of their own apportioned fault.
New Hampshire Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents
New Hampshire has a three-year statute of limitations for civil cases like car accidents. This means car crash victims have three years from the date of the accident to gather sufficient evidence, build a case, and file a lawsuit. The statute applies to all accidents, whether or not they result in injuries or property damage.
However, under New Hampshire law, if a victim fails to reasonably discover an injury caused by an accident, the deadline does not begin until they discover the injury. In cases like this, the statute of limitations starts later than the date the car crash occurred.
Similar principles apply if a victim passes away due to an accident; if any surviving relatives or representatives want to file a wrongful death claim, they have three years from the date of the victim's death to do so.
Meanwhile, if the victim in a motor vehicle crash is a minor, the statute of limitations is two years from the date the individual turns 18.
Average Settlement for New Hampshire Car Accident Lawsuits
Because car accidents happen in different ways and have different results, it is hard to say what the average settlement a victim in New Hampshire can get from a lawsuit or claim is. Damages are often classified as economic or noneconomic.
Economic damages involve the monetary losses that a victim has suffered. They can include:
Expenses for medical care and medication
Long-term treatments for disfigurement or disabilities
Repair costs for a damaged car or property
Lost income caused by the victim being unable to work or find work
Noneconomic damages refer to losses caused by factors like:
A victim’s pain and suffering
Emotional distress or trauma
Loss of consortium
Loss of enjoyment of life
Legal teams work with plaintiffs to calculate the estimated amount of economic and noneconomic damages they can receive by assessing:
Records depicting the extent of a plaintiff’s injuries
Present and future treatments and medications for such injuries
Receipts involving repair work for the plaintiff’s vehicle or property
Proof of diminished earning capacity or lost income
Psychiatric findings documenting the stress, anxiety, or trauma caused by the accident
Reports of disfigurement or disabilities that can impact the plaintiff’s quality of life in the future
New Hampshire law does not award punitive damages to car accident victims.
Legal Resources for New Hampshire Car Accident Victims
The New Hampshire Bar Association has a Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) that helps registered individuals in canvassing and hiring a potential lawyer for various cases, including personal injury matters like car accidents. It also has a LawLine service that allows state residents to make free inquiries concerning legal issues once a month.
Citizens can contact the LRS at 603-229-0002 to speak to a referral specialist or access the LawLine service by dialing 800-868-1212.
Injury Law Rights is a legal organization that assists citizens throughout the country in finding and choosing pro bono attorneys who can help them with their cases. Its staff is open to inquiries from New Hampshire car accident victims regarding pro bono lawyers within the state. Its members are also available for free discussions concerning specific cases, legal requirements, and other relevant processes.
New Hampshire residents can contact the organization at 855-633-0888 for more inquiries.
The website of the New Hampshire Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) provides information on how to submit requests for car accident reports. It has a digital copy of the DSMV 505 form that car accident victims and related parties can complete, download, or submit to the DMV’s Concord drop box. Each report costs $1 per page, with a minimum payment of $5; the DMV’s staff will relay any additional costs via phone or email.
Individuals can contact the DMV for report requests and other relevant questions by emailing NH.DMVHelp@dos.nh.gov or dialing (603) 227-4010.
The New Hampshire Judicial Branch website provides resources and information about legal forms, how to file paperwork, and how to check records. It also has sections that talk about the history of different courts in the state, how hearings for traffic violations work, and the rules for filing small claims electronically.
Callers from the United States and Canada can reach the Judicial Branch’s Court Information Center at 1-855-212-1234. For callers outside of these countries, the center can be contacted at 603-415-0162.
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