New Hampshire has the nickname the “Granite State”. However, as far as we know, the 16,689 miles of public highways and roads that run through the state are still made of asphalt. All that roadway means multiple routes by which to explore the Switzerland of America — another moniker thanks to its mountains. But it simultaneously leads to more than 100 fatal car crashes per year. Rather than take the state’s motto of “Live Free or Die” literally, learn about New Hampshire’s car accident laws. Our complete guide has all you need to know!
What to Do at the Scene of a Crash
No matter where you live, the first step after a crash is to get yourself and any passengers to safety. If your car is impeding traffic, try to move your vehicle to safety. The last thing that one needs is a secondary crash or further damage.
Then check for injuries. Call 911 if anyone is hurt. This step is important even when injuries are not visible but seem probable.
Internal bleeding and whiplash are conditions that often appear days after a car accident. According to 911.gov, if you’re not sure anyone needs medical assistance, you should call and let the dispatcher decide.
Once you have the essential steps under control, consider calling law enforcement. That’s because if police come to the scene, they can investigate the crash and file a police report, which may help determine fault.
Information to Gather at the Accident
If a police officer comes to the scene, they’ll often facilitate the exchange of personal details between drivers. However, you shouldn’t rely on this. Always make sure you get the following information from any other drivers involved in an accident with you:
- Contact info (full name, address, phone, email)
- Driver’s license and license plate number
- Insurance ID card/policy number
- Car registration
- Car make, model and color
Also take photos of the damage, surrounding areas, and traffic signage. And speak to any witnesses, getting their contact info if possible. Make sure not to say anything incriminating after a car wreck. Even apologizing can be used against you in settlement negotiations, so make interactions brief and cordial.
How to Report a Car Accident in New Hampshire
Any driver involved in an accident in New Hampshire with property damage greater than $1,000 or injury/death must report it. This is law per New Hampshire Revised Statutes (NH RSA) section 264:25.
The vehicle operator must also submit a written report within 15 days of the crash. It should go directly to the New Hampshire Department of Motor Vehicles (NH DMV). The easiest way to report your crash is to fill out an Operator’s Report, form DSMV 400.
Then mail the form to the NH DMV at:
NH Dept. of Safety
DMV – FR/Accidents
23 Hazen Drive
Concord NH 03305
If the police respond to the accident, the driver doesn’t have to file a report personally. This is because law enforcement must then submit form DSMV 159, State of New Hampshire Uniform Police Traffic Accident Report. That form will satisfy the reporting requirement (circling back to the reasons for calling the police above).
The driver may obtain a copy of the report later by submitting a Request for Motor Vehicle Records, form DSMV 505. However, it often takes several weeks for an officer to submit a report to the NH DMV. Accordingly, a driver may still wish to also file an Operator’s Report themself in order to speed up insurance claims.
New Hampshire Car Insurance Laws
New Hampshire doesn’t technically require drivers to carry insurance in order to operate a vehicle. It is the only state without this provision as a law. However, you must be able to demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to meet New Hampshire motor vehicle financial responsibility requirements.
What that means is if you cause an accident, you will be responsible for paying for all damages. In reality, most people do not have nearly enough in savings to cover potential liability and property damage claims. Therefore, carrying an auto insurance policy is still the smartest move for New Hampshire drivers, even if it’s not law.
However, if you do buy auto insurance in New Hampshire, there are still minimum insurance requirements you must satisfy. A basic policy needs to include 25/50/25 coverage, which translates to:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury
- $50,000 for two or more persons with bodily injury
- $25,000 to cover property damage
Additional Insurance Requirements
If you purchase a liability plan, you need to also include uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage in the policy. The law stipulates that the amount of UM/UIM must match the liability coverage per NH RSA section 264:15. So, if you purchase the minimum 25/50/25, that is what your UM/UIM should be as well.
Anyone purchasing an auto insurance policy in New Hampshire must also carry at least $1,000 of Medical Payments (MedPay) coverage. Per NH RSA section 264:16, this only applies to medical costs during the three-year period following an accident. And a claimant may not receive double payment for the same medical issue from MedPay and their personal health insurance.
Collision or comprehensive protection is not a requirement under New Hampshire car accident laws. However, if you don’t buy it, you will have to fully fund any repairs to your car yourself.
Is New Hampshire a No-Fault State?
Actually, New Hampshire is an at-fault state. Meaning, if you cause an accident, you will have to pay for it. Yet another reason carrying insurance is still vital.
However, the assignment of fault isn’t absolute in New Hampshire. That’s because it functions under a system of modified comparative negligence when it comes to determining blame. Each driver involved in an accident may carry some percentage of responsibility for the crash.
Basically, if you’re more than 50% responsible for a crash, you will not be able to get money for damages. If your percentage is less than half, however, you may be able to sue the other driver.
Also note that the comparative negligence rule applies to the state where the accident occurs. So even if you don’t live in New Hampshire, but the crash happens there, this will apply to you.
Comparative Negligence Laws in New Hampshire
Under NH RSA section 507:7-d, each driver in an accident receives a percentage of comparative fault.
Per this law, if your share of fault is greater than that of the defendant(s), you can’t recover any damages. But if your percentage of negligence is less than the other driver(s), you are within your rights to request compensation.
Generally, that means filing a case in court, for which you’ll definitely need an auto accident attorney. That’s because there is no empirical way to determine fault percentages, so it’ll come down to persuading a judge and jury.
Keep in mind that under comparative fault laws, if you receive a settlement, there may be an award reduction. Whatever percentage of fault the courts assign to you for the accident, then your compensation diminishes by that percent as well.
For example, let’s say they decide to award you $100,000 in damages. If you’re 20% at fault for the accident, then you’ll receive $80,000.
Also note that insurance claims adjusters will likely consider these percentages. So, you’ll want help to minimize your percentage of assigned fault if it’s possible.
Types of Damages After a Car Accident
Since New Hampshire car accident laws allow for assignment of fault, anyone less at fault may sue for damages. There are generally two types of damages in personal injury cases like these: economic and non-economic.
These are the damages you can get receipts for, meaning they are quantifiable. Examples of economic damages might include:
- Medical expenses, including surgeries and hospitalizations.
- Loss of wages, including past and future employment.
- Rehabilitation costs, including therapy and accessories like wheelchairs.
- Property damage, including vehicle repairs.
These are damages that are very real in concept, but harder to prove. It’s because they don’t come with measurable losses like bills or lost wages. Still, a claimant might successfully win awards for things like:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- PTSD or anxiety
- Loss of companionship
- Reputational damage
- Disability/physical impairment
New Hampshire Statute of Limitations
According to NH RSA section 508:4, there is a three year statute of limitations for almost all car accident lawsuits in New Hampshire car accident law. In other words, you have three years from the crash date to file any injury or property damage cases.
There is one exception to the rule, however, in the case of a wrongful death suit. If someone died in the crash and a family member or estate representative wishes to file, it’s still three years. But the deadline clock starts ticking from the date that the individual passed, not the accident date.
In either event, it’s important to pay attention to the three year cut off, however. If you miss the deadline, it’s most likely the court will automatically dismiss your case.
Also note that this does not refer to insurance claims which you’ll generally need to file within weeks, not years.
How LegalASAP Can Help You Find an Auto Accident Attorney
As a reminder, New Hampshire is the only state in the U.S. without an auto insurance requirement. Plus, it’s one of 33 states with the sometimes confusing “modified comparative fault” rule in place. Put those together, and the reasons for hiring an attorney after your car accident are clear.
Without proper representation, you may not receive the compensation you deserve following an accident. Or worse, you might end up fronting more of the blame, which means paying high damages and getting nothing back.
Protect yourself from New Hampshire car accident laws by letting LegalASAP connect you with a qualified auto accident lawyer today. It may be the Granite State, but you don’t want to end up between a rock and a hard place!
Kimberly Dawn Neumann
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit: www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann