Articles Posted in Personal Injury

Planes are one of the safest forms of travel. However, small private planes sometimes fly too high or get caught in inclement weather. Unfortunately, these complications can have tragic consequences.

A recent plane crash involving New Hampshire residents shows the devastating toll a plane crash can take on a victim’s loved ones. As two recent news articles reported, family members are grieving after a plane crash killed a New Hampshire mother and daughter, along with their nanny and the pilot. The accident occurred near Waynesboro, Virginia, when a private plane went unresponsive to attempts by U.S. fighter jets and civilian aircraft to make contact. Crash investigators believe the pilot and passengers went unresponsive due to hypoxia, a shortage of oxygen that occurs when a plane reaches too high an altitude.

Can You Recover Damages for the Loss of a Loved One?

If you have lost a loved one in a New Hampshire accident, you may be able to hold the at-fault party responsible in court by bringing a wrongful death claim. Under New Hampshire law, a person can file a wrongful death lawsuit if they have an interest in the deceased person’s estate. In practice, this often includes the deceased’s immediate family. A deceased victim’s loved one can sue a defendant so long as the victim would be able to sue had they survived. In essence, a wrongful death claim puts plaintiffs in the victim’s shoes as if the victim brought the claim. However, in addition to the usual damages available in a negligence suit, the deceased’s spouse can also pursue damages for loss of consortium. This term refers to the loss of the deceased’s companionship and comfort. When bringing a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must show it is more likely than not that the defendant was at fault for the victim’s death.

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Typically, people can only bring a lawsuit within a certain time period after the incident that caused them harm. A state will impose these time limits through statutes of limitations. For example, if the statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit is three years, a person cannot bring a lawsuit more than three years after the accident at issue.

What Are the Statutes of Limitations in New Hampshire?

Most civil actions in New Hampshire have a three-year statute of limitations, including for personal injury lawsuits. Consequently, New Hampshire plaintiffs often must bring a personal injury lawsuit within three years of their accident. The statute of limitations is also three years for libel and slander, fraud, injury to personal property, and professional malpractice. New Hampshire codifies these statutes at Section 508:4. On the other hand, not all civil actions in New Hampshire have a three-year limit.

For example, New Hampshire plaintiffs must bring trespassing actions within two years per Section 539:8. Additionally, New Hampshire law imposes a four-year limit for rent collection actions (Section 382-A:2A-506); a twenty-year limit for written contracts (Section 508:5); and a three-year limit for verbal contracts (Section 508:4). To seek a collection on debt, the statute of limitations is twenty years for written deals (Section 508:5) and three years for verbal deals (Section 508:4). Finally, a New Hampshire plaintiff must bring a lawsuit seeking enforcement of a judgment within twenty years of the judgment according to Section 508:5. In addition to these civil actions, criminal law also has statutes of limitations. In a criminal case, a prosecutor must bring a criminal charge within a certain period after the alleged crime.

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When determining fault in negligence lawsuits, New Hampshire follows a system known as modified comparative negligence. Comparative negligence refers to a plaintiff’s responsibility for the injuries they suffered. For example, if a driver strikes a pedestrian, that person may sue the driver for negligence. However, the pedestrian may also share some portion of fault if they ran across a busy street and failed to use a crosswalk. In these scenarios, if a judge or jury finds that the plaintiff was negligent, they may attribute some responsibility for the accident to the plaintiff. The rationale behind many comparative fault laws is that courts should only hold defendants accountable for their share of fault.

Decades ago, the majority rule among states would prohibit the plaintiff from receiving damages if they shared any portion of fault for their injuries. Today, New Hampshire and many states follow a modified comparative negligence system. New Hampshire passed these rules for recovery under Section 507 of the state’s Revised Statutes. Under this law, plaintiffs in New Hampshire can recover damages against defendants so long as they were less than 51% at fault for the accident. If plaintiffs are more than 50% at fault, they cannot recover any damages. On the other hand, if plaintiffs are equally at fault or less, they can still recover damages. When a plaintiff sues multiple defendants, the plaintiff’s level of fault still must be less than 51% to recover from each defendant. In turn, defendants are only liable for their portion of the fault.

Additionally, plaintiffs should be aware that New Hampshire law, specifically Section 507, will reduce their damages award based on their portion of fault for the accident. For example, if a judge or jury finds the plaintiff 10% at fault for the accident, they will reduce the plaintiff’s ultimate damages award by 10%. Because defendants would then pay less in damages, they will often argue that the plaintiff shares some level of responsibility for the accident. To make their case, defendants may seek to introduce evidence that the plaintiff acted negligently. Under Section 507, each party has the burden of proving the other is at fault. An experienced New Hampshire personal injury attorney can help you understand the state’s comparative fault and develop a case theory to help prove you were not at fault for your injuries.

The criminal trial of Volodymyr Zhukovskyy has been closely followed for the past two weeks in New Hampshire and nationwide. Mr. Zhukovskyy was charged with 7 counts of homicide after the semi-truck he was driving crashed head-on into a group of motorcyclists in June 2019 in Randolph, Rhode Island, and resulted in 7 deaths. According to a national news report, the jury released a verdict after the two-week long trial, and they found Mr. Zhukovskyy not guilty of all charges.

According to the facts discussed in the news report, prosecutors alleged that Mr. Zhukovskyy was under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash and that his impairment and unsafe driving caused the crash. The defendant had one commercial driving license suspended in Connecticut two months before the crash for drunk driving. Although notice of the incident was sent to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, it had not been processed at the time, and Mr. Zhukovskyy was operating his vehicle with a valid Massachusetts commercial driving license at the time of the crash.

Defense attorneys argued that he was not impaired by any drugs at the time of the crash, and pointed to conflicting witness testimonies to place doubt on the prosecution’s theory of the case. It was unclear whether the motorcyclists for the defendant had crossed over the centerline before the crash. Because of this, the prosecution was unable to prove their case to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt, and Mr. Zhukovskyy will be released from custody.

New Hampshire was among twenty states in the U.S. that had more deaths than births in 2020 for the first time in about a century, according to one news source. The information was based on data from the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics. A researcher stated that most states would probably start to see more births than deaths after the pandemic ends. However, data shows that birth rates have been declining for many years and may continue to decline. The researcher said that in New England, recording more deaths than births “will likely continue in the future.” Interestingly, according to the Centers for Disease Control, accidents are the third leading cause of death in New Hampshire, after cancer and heart disease. Accidents cause more deaths in New Hampshire than stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and other causes.

In the devastating event of the loss of a loved one due to an accident, family members may be able to file a claim against those responsible for their loved one’s death. The loss can mean the loss of financial support that others rely on, and filing a claim against those responsible can allow family members and others to recover compensation for the financial loss, as well as the emotional loss. Under New Hampshire law, “any person interested in the estate of a deceased” may file a wrongful death claim in the state—which is a civil claim against those responsible. Unlike in many states where only certain individuals can file a wrongful death claim, New Hampshire’s law allows any individual with an interest in the victim’s estate to file the claim. However, there are some limitations on who can recover compensation in certain circumstances (such as parents who failed to financially support their children).

Plaintiffs may be able to recover damages, including funeral and burial expenses, pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity, and more. The victim’s spouse can also recover damages for the loss of companionship, guidance, and more. Unless the parties agree to a settlement, the damages must be proven by the plaintiff, though the jury normally determines the dollar amount of damages that should be awarded. There is a limit to damages in some circumstances.

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