New Hampshire has some of the lowest rates of fatal motor vehicle crashes in the country, with a five-year average rate of 0.886 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, according to the Federal Highway Administration. But accidents can still be catastrophic and life-altering for victims and their families, particularly when they involve commercial motor vehicles like large trucks and buses.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a trucking accident, it's important to know your rights and the legal options available to you. This article covers topics such as fault determination, insurance requirements, and potential damages you can recover. By understanding New Hampshire’s trucking accident laws and how they apply to your case, you can better protect yourself and recover the compensation you deserve.
New Hampshire Commercial Driver’s License Requirements
In New Hampshire, drivers who operate any commercial vehicle weighing more than 26,000 pounds or transport hazardous materials must obtain a commercial driver's license. This requirement ensures truck drivers possess the necessary skills and knowledge to safely operate large and potentially dangerous vehicles. The state's Department of Motor Vehicles oversees the CDL program and requires drivers to pass a written test, a skills test, and a medical examination.
There are serious consequences when unlicensed drivers operate motor carriers. These drivers may not have the necessary training to handle large vehicles or understand the federal regulations governing trucking. This could lead to accidents and injuries on the road, putting other drivers at risk. Truck accident attorneys could use the violation of CDL requirements to sue negligent truck drivers or companies. They could argue that the driver or company failed to take reasonable steps to ensure the driver was properly licensed.
New Hampshire Driving Regulations
Truck driving regulations continuously evolve, partly to mitigate possible negligence in the industry. This section goes over various laws implemented by New Hampshire to address a few common causes of truck accidents, such as speeding and distracted driving. These regulations promote safe driving practices and protect truck drivers and other road users.
Like other vehicles sharing the roadways of New Hampshire, trucks follow a maximum speed limit that varies according to the type of zone or road. However, truck drivers and their employers are often incentivized to maximize profits and stick to tight schedules, which can lead to speeding violations. Speeding can be especially dangerous for large trucks because of the increased difficulty of maneuvering or stopping. This, in turn, can cause rear-end or rollover accidents.
Type of roadway or area
Any business or urban residence district
Any rural residence district
Any other locations
Where the interstate system, the central NH turnpike, and the eastern NH turnpike split into four-lane divided highways
On the I-93 between mile marker 45 to the Vermont border
CMV drivers are also subject to additional regulations that may lower their maximum speed limit depending on the weight of their cargo and the type of road they are traveling on. But, generally, operating at 15 mph or more over the posted speed limit is considered excessive speeding and a serious traffic violation. Such offenses can be reported to the New Hampshire State Police, who will investigate and issue the corresponding citations to the drivers.
The legal consequences for this violation include the suspension of a CMV driver’s CDL for at least 60 days after two instances of excessive speeding within three years. This suspension extends to a minimum of 120 days for three or more offenses within the same period.
Reckless and Negligent Driving Laws
New Hampshire's laws on reckless and negligent driving for trucks are set out in the state's traffic code. According to RSA 265:79, reckless driving is defined as driving with a "willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property." Negligent driving, on the other hand, is defined as driving "in a careless or imprudent manner, or without due regard for the road, traffic, or weather conditions."
Truck drivers might drive recklessly due to fatigue, distraction, or pressure to meet tight deadlines. This could lead to behaviors such as speeding, tailgating, and unsafe lane changes. Distracted driving is also a common cause of truck accidents and can be attributed to cell phone use, eating or drinking, and other distractions.
Violations of these laws can be reported to the New Hampshire State Police or local law enforcement agencies. The consequences for reckless or negligent driving include fines, license suspension or revocation, and imprisonment in more serious cases. Causing a fatality while driving negligently is also cause for the disqualification of a CMV driver’s CDL.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can significantly affect a person’s driving abilities. Alcohol, for example, can impair a person’s judgment, reaction, time, and coordination. It can also cause drowsiness and reduced vision. Drugs, including prescription medications, can also impair a person’s ability to drive safely.
Under New Hampshire law, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher. Commercial drivers have an even lower BAC limit of 0.04. For drivers under 21, this limit is bumped down further to 0.02.
The state also has an implied consent law, which means that by driving in the state, you are consenting to submit to a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine if you are suspected of DUI. Violations of these laws can be reported to the New Hampshire State Police and are punishable by fines, license suspension or revocation, imprisonment, and mandatory participation in an alcohol treatment program.
The consequences of a DUI for a commercial motor vehicle driver can be even more severe. In addition to facing criminal penalties, they may lose their CDL for at least one year for a first offense. A second offense can result in a lifetime ban from holding a CDL. Additionally, even if they are charged with DUI while driving a non-commercial vehicle, their CDL can still be suspended or revoked. If they refuse BAC testing, this also results in revocation for life.
New Hampshire Vehicle Safety Requirements
Ensuring the safety of vehicles is a critical component of preventing truck accidents. Negligence on the part of trucking companies, manufacturers, maintenance centers, and cargo loaders can all contribute to vehicle failures that can lead to devastating crashes. New Hampshire has implemented laws and regulations to mitigate these risks, improve vehicle safety, and prevent accidents caused by equipment failure and other issues.
Size, Weight, and Length Limitations
New Hampshire imposes size, weight, and length limitations on commercial motor vehicles operating within its borders. These laws promote safety on the state's highways and aim to reduce wear and tear on road infrastructure. They are codified in the state’s laws as such:
13 feet, 6 inches
45 feet for single-unit vehicles, 53 feet for combination vehicles
8 feet, 5 inches
33,400 pounds for 2-axle vehicles, 47,500 for 3- and 4-axle vehicles, and 80,000 for 5-axle vehicles
Truck-tractor, semi-trailer, and other combination vehicles have more specific weight regulations in place, depending on the number of axles the weight is distributed upon. These are set out in Section 266:18 of the state’s revised statutes.
It’s worth noting that these limits apply to vehicles traveling on state highways. Local roadways may have additional restrictions, so commercial motor vehicle operators need to be aware of all relevant regulations. Oversized or overloaded vehicles can pose a significant risk to public safety, particularly on narrow roads or in areas with low clearance.
Some exceptions to these limitations apply to agricultural equipment and emergency vehicles. Certain CMVs can apply for special permits to be exempt from these laws, although they must meet specific requirements and pay the appropriate fees.
Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance
New Hampshire state law requires all commercial motor vehicles to be inspected annually by a certified inspector. The inspection includes a thorough check of the vehicle's components, cargo condition, and other critical elements to ensure they meet the minimum safety standards. Additionally, commercial vehicles must undergo periodic maintenance and repair work to continue operating safely on the road.
These laws help prevent accidents caused by mechanical failure or other issues related to poorly maintained vehicles. Failure to comply with these laws can result in several penalties:
Fines: The owner or operator of the vehicle may be fined for each violation.
Out-of-service orders: If a commercial motor vehicle is found to have serious safety violations during an inspection, it may be placed out of service until the necessary repairs are made.
Suspension or revocation of operating authority: The state may suspend or revoke the operating authority of a trucking company that repeatedly violates inspection and maintenance regulations.
Civil lawsuits: If a truck accident occurs due to the failure to properly inspect, repair, or maintain a commercial motor vehicle, the trucking company or owner may be held liable for any damages caused by the accident.
If a collision was caused by a mechanical failure or a maintenance issue, an experienced trucking accident attorney could help victims take legal action and pursue compensation for their losses.
New Hampshire Commercial Trucking Insurance Requirements
In New Hampshire, commercial trucking insurance requirements are set by the FMCSA and the state government. Commercial trucks operating in the state must carry primary liability insurance to cover any property damages or injuries inflicted on others in an accident. The minimum amount of liability insurance required for trucks is $300,000, but this amount can vary based on the type of cargo transported.
Additionally, truck drivers may be required to carry other types of insurance depending on the nature of their business and the types of goods they transport. These include cargo, environmental liability, and hazardous materials coverage. The table below outlines the required coverage amounts for different types of cargo.
Liability insurance (Hazmat)
Liability insurance (Oil Transport)
Liability insurance (General Freight)
Liability insurance (Household Goods)
$10,000 per catastrophe and $5,000 per vehicle
Cargo insurance (for interstate contract carriers and household goods movers)
Additionally, truck drivers who travel beyond state borders face additional insurance requirements as laid out by the FMCSA. This includes federal liability coverage of around $750,000 to $1,000,000. Trucking companies must maintain adequate insurance coverage to protect themselves and their drivers from potential lawsuits and financial losses.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Truck Accident in New Hampshire?
In New Hampshire, the amount of compensation that someone can sue for after a truck accident depends on the circumstances surrounding the incident. The damages could be substantial if the crash caused serious injury or death. Victims could sue for medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.
The amount of damages awarded in a case will also depend on the evidence presented and the strength of the case. Unlike some states, New Hampshire does not impose caps on the amount of damages obtainable from personal injury claims, such as those for truck accidents. This means there is no limit to the amount of compensation a plaintiff can receive.
New Hampshire law allows the court to award "fair and just" damages to the plaintiff, which could include economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages cover medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage, while non-economic damages cover pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Average Settlement for New Hampshire Trucking Accident Lawsuits
Settlements for truck accident lawsuits can range from tens of thousands to millions of dollars, with each case being unique. The amount awarded to the plaintiff depends on the consequences of the accident and how at fault the truck driver was. The amount is also affected by factors such as the severity of the victim’s injuries, losses, and emotional distress.
A recent commercial truck accident case in New Hampshire settled for $15 million. The collision resulted in a motorist's death, which turned the case from an accident lawsuit to one for wrongful death.
Truck accident lawyers typically work on a contingency basis and receive a predetermined percentage of the settlement. This means they only get paid if they win the case and the plaintiff receives compensation. However, looking into different lawyers before making a decision is important, as some may not necessarily work on a contingency fee basis.
New Hampshire Statute of Limitations for Truck Accidents
In New Hampshire, the statute of limitations or deadline for personal injury claims resulting from a trucking accident is three years from the date of the collision. If you fail to file a lawsuit within these three years, the statute of limitations will likely bar your claim, and you will be unable to recover compensation for your losses.
However, there are exceptions to this deadline. If the victim was a minor at the time of the collision, the statute of limitations may be extended until the minor reaches the age of 18. Extensions may also take place due to “discovery rules,” where the victim could not or could not have reasonably discovered their injuries until after the three-year period has expired.
New Hampshire Is a Fault State for Insurance Claims
New Hampshire follows a fault system for insurance claims following a trucking accident. This means that the driver who is found to be responsible for the collision is liable to pay for any resulting injuries and damages. This is determined by examining the evidence and circumstances surrounding the incident.
Under a fault system, insurance companies will typically conduct their own investigation to determine who was at fault for the accident. If it is found that the truck driver was at fault, their insurance company will be responsible for paying for the damages caused by the accident up to the limit of their policy. If the damages exceed the policy limit, the driver may be personally responsible for the remaining amount.
However, if the suing party is found to be at fault, their insurance company will pay for any damages. As such, it is important to gather evidence such as photos, witness statements, and police reports to determine fault. In addition to the truck driver, other parties that could be held liable include the truck driver’s employer, the CMV’s owner, the cargo’s owner and loader, and the company in charge of maintaining the vehicle.
New Hampshire Is a Modified Comparative Fault State for Trucking Accident Lawsuits
New Hampshire applies a modified comparative fault rule in cases where fault is shared. This rule reduces or eliminates the damages an injured person can collect, depending on how much fault they share for the incident. This applies to all types of accidents, including those involving trucks.
Under this system, fault for an accident is assigned on a percentage basis to each party involved. In cases where the plaintiff is found to be partially at fault for the accident, their recovery will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to them. For example, if a plaintiff is awarded $100,000 but is found to be 30% at fault, their compensation will be reduced accordingly to $70,000.
New Hampshire also follows the 51% bar rule, which means that a plaintiff can only recover damages if they are found to be 50% or less at fault for the accident. Since the burden of proving fault is levied on the suing party, working with an attorney specializing in truck accident law is recommended to strengthen the plaintiff’s case and increase the chance of securing the maximum possible compensation.
Legal Resources for New Hampshire Trucking Accident Victims
The New Hampshire Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service is a program that helps individuals in New Hampshire find a qualified attorney who can help them with their legal issues. To use the service, call the toll-free number or fill out an online form with basic information about their case. The service will then provide the names of several attorneys who handle cases in the relevant area of law.
New Hampshire Legal Assistance is a non-profit organization that provides free legal assistance to low-income individuals and families in New Hampshire. Its mission is to ensure that everyone has access to justice, regardless of income or background. It maintains a team of attorneys from various legal areas who can help victims with matters such as filing a claim with the negligent party’s insurance, negotiating a settlement, and representing the victims in court.
The New Hampshire Insurance Department’s 2022 Automobile Insurance Consumer FAQs are a valuable guide for anyone who drives in the state. It covers a wide selection of topics related to automobile insurance, including coverage requirements, types of insurance, and how to file a claim. It’s especially helpful for victims of auto accidents, as it provides information on what to expect during the claims process and useful tips on dealing with insurance adjusters to protect oneself from fraud.
New Hampshire’s Division of Motor Vehicles published the CDL Driver’s Guide, a comprehensive resource for commercial drivers operating throughout the state. It covers safe driving practices, vehicle inspections, cargo handling, and other rules that truck drivers must follow to ensure responsible driving. It also provides instructions on what to do in the event of an accident, including how to report it and how to comply with state and federal regulations.
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