Articles Posted in Car Accidents

A local New Hampshire news report indicated that a driver involved in a head-on collision is facing reckless conduct charges. State police reported that the 21-year-old driver crossed through a center line on a New Hampshire road and collided with another driver. The at-fault motorist was arrested and then taken to a local hospital for treatment of the injuries he sustained in the accident. Both the young driver’s passenger and the woman driving the vehicle he collided with sustained severe injuries. They were transported to the hospital for life-threatening injuries. State police explained that the case is still under investigation to determine why the young man crossed through the center line.

Under New Hampshire law, a criminal reckless conduct charge is taken very seriously and can carry significant penalties, including jail time and significant fines. Moreover, if a New Hampshire driver is injured because of another’s reckless or aggressive driving, they can pursue civil remedies and may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. Under state law, drivers are required to operate their vehicles with ordinary and reasonable care. Ordinary and reasonable care means that drivers should follow posted speed limits, safely change lanes, keep a safe following distance, properly pass other drivers, and not engage in reckless or aggressive driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) explains that aggressive driving occurs when an individual operates a vehicle in a way that endangers or is likely to endanger someone or their property. Further, New Hampshire law specifies that reckless driving includes driving in a manner that poses a “substantial and unjustifiable” risk to others when the driver knew of the attendant dangers and disregarded them. Some common scenarios that may result in a reckless driving charge are street racing, speeding over 100 mph, and swerving through traffic at a high speed. These behaviors are likely to result in severe injuries to passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians. If an aggressive driver’s behavior causes an accident and injuries, they should be held liable for the resulting damages.

New Hampshire car accidents claim upwards of 90 lives per year. Many of these accidents involve the fault of multiple parties. As we have discussed in previous posts, New Hampshire uses the modified comparative fault doctrine when determining whether an accident victim can recover for their injuries. Under this doctrine, an accident victim can pursue a New Hampshire personal injury claim, so long as their fault is less than the combined fault of all defendants. In other words, as long as the accident victim was less than 50% at fault for the accident, they can bring a claim.

Not surprisingly, given how the comparative fault doctrine works, defendants frequently claim that an accident was not their fault, but was instead caused by the plaintiff’s negligence. One question that often arises is whether a defendant can point to a plaintiff’s failure to wear a seat belt as evidence of the plaintiff’s negligence. In New Hampshire, the answer is “no.”

Almost every state in the U.S. has at least some kind of law specifying when motorists need to wear their seat belt. In fact, New Hampshire is the only state with no seat belt law on the books. (Note: children are required to be safely secured in car seats, and minors under the age of 18 are required to wear a seat belt). Not surprisingly, in a recent study conducted by the Center for Disease Control, researchers found that just 69% of New Hampshire motorists wear their seat belts compared to 86% of motorists nationwide.

After someone is injured in a New Hampshire car accident, one of the most important considerations when filing a personal injury case is which parties to name as defendants. This can be a critical decision that impacts the plaintiff’s overall ability to recover compensation for their injuries for several different reasons.

First, New Hampshire injury victims get only one chance to bring their case against all potentially responsible parties. If a plaintiff proceeds to trial against one defendant, and then later discovers that another party also bore some responsibility, the court will likely preclude the plaintiff from bringing another case against the later-discovered defendant. Such a situation allows the named defendant to shift as much blame as possible onto the non-present party. If the defendant is successful in doing so, the jury may find that the non-present party was primarily responsible, leaving the plaintiff with no way to recover for their injuries.

Another essential reason to thoroughly investigate a claim is to increase the chances a plaintiff will be able to recover any monetary award issued by the jury. In many New Hampshire personal injury cases involving individual defendants, the defendant does not have sufficient assets or insurance coverage to fully and fairly compensate the plaintiff for their injuries. By identifying and naming additional parties, especially employers, a plaintiff greatly increases the chance of receiving the full amount of any judgment in their favor.

Many New Hampshire personal injury cases involve multiple defendants. For example, chain-reaction car accident, injuries caused by dangerous or defective products, and even slip-and-fall accidents often result in an injury victim filing a claim against several different defendants. While the jury is ultimately responsible for apportioning liability between the parties, the court’s job is to make sure that the jury follows the rules when doing so. The New Hampshire Legislature provides guidance for divvying up liability in multi-defendant personal injury cases.

After a jury determines that there are multiple parties who are liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, the court will ask the jury to come up with the total amount of damages the plaintiff should receive for their injuries. Then, the court will instruct the jury to determine each defendants’ relative percentage of fault. The court will then apportion the damages among the defendants according to the jury’s breakdown of responsibility.

In many cases involving multiple defendants, each defendant is responsible only for their own share. However, under New Hampshire Revised Statutes section 507:7-e, if a defendant is found to be more than 50% at fault for the plaintiff’s injuries, that defendant will be held jointly and severally liable for the entire damages award. Thus, even if other defendants contributed to the accident, the defendant primarily responsible for the crash must cover their share if the other defendants are unable to pay. In addition, any party who knowingly caused harm to the plaintiff will be subject to joint-and-several liability, even if they were less than 50% at fault.

Losing a loved one in a fatal New Hampshire car accident is an unimaginable tragedy for most. However, in a small state of just 1.3 million people, there are an average of over 100 fatal traffic accidents each year. As a result, over 100 families must deal with the tragedy of having a loved one taken from them too soon. While the most common causes of fatal New Hampshire car accidents are speed and alcohol, driver distraction and drowsiness also contribute to the list.

After someone is killed in a New Hampshire car accident, their loved ones may decide to pursue a claim for financial compensation against the party or parties they believe were responsible for their loved one’s death. Such claims are brought under the New Hampshire wrongful death statute, which is contained in New Hampshire Revised Statutes section 556:12. The statute provides that “any person interested in the estate of a deceased” can initiate a wrongful death claim. Unlike other states that provide a strict list of potential beneficiaries, New Hampshire allows wrongful death claims to be initiated by any number of family members or loved ones.

Families who have lost a loved one in a New Hampshire car accident should keep in mind that section 556:11 imposes a strict time limit for wrongful death cases. Section 556:11 requires that a claim be brought within six years from the death of the deceased; claims filed after this period may be dismissed without consideration. It is also important to note that the six-year deadline applies only to new wrongful death actions, and not to any existing claims that the deceased may have had against another potential defendant.

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