New Hampshire Personal Injury Laws & Statutory Rules
The basics of New Hampshire personal injury laws - time limits to sue, limits on compensation, government injury claim rules, and more.
New Hampshire has specific state laws that apply to personal injury lawsuits and insurance settlements. This article looks at some key New Hampshire personal injury laws that might come into play in your case.
Deadlines for New Hampshire Injury Lawsuits
Each state has a deadline, or "statute of limitations," for filing injury claims in court. New Hampshire is no exception. In New Hampshire, you have three years to bring your personal injury lawsuit to court.
It's very important to keep track of this three-year statute of limitations. If you don't file within three years of your accident date, the court will likely throw your case out and refuse to hear it. If this happens, you've lost a valuable opportunity to hold any negligent parties accountable for their actions.
Shared Fault Rules
In some New Hampshire injury cases, a jury determines that fault is shared between the person who was injured and the person or company they are trying to hold responsible for the injury. New Hampshire applies a modified comparative fault rule in cases where fault is shared. Simply put, this rule reduces or eliminates the damages an injured person can collect, depending on how much fault he or she shares for the accident.
Here's an example of New Hampshire's modified comparative fault rule at work. Suppose that you're sitting outdoors in a lawn chair one day when it suddenly breaks, throwing you to the ground and causing injuries. The chair was labeled "for indoor use only," but you had stored it outdoors on your patio for several weeks before the accident. In court, it's determined that you are 35 percent at fault for the accident and the chair's manufacturer is 65 percent at fault, and that your total damages are $10,000.
Here, New Hampshire's modified comparative fault rule reduces the damages you can collect from $10,000 to $6,500. This equals the $10,000 total minus $3,500 that represents the 35 percent of the fault assigned to you. As long as your fault is under 50 percent in a New Hampshire injury case, you can collect some money from other at-fault parties. If your fault is 50 percent or more, however, you are not allowed to collect anything.
New Hampshire courts will apply the modified comparative fault rule because state law requires them to do so. However, an insurance adjuster may also bring up the law during settlement negotiations, so it's wise to know how it works.
Damages in personal injury cases are intended to compensate for all harm and losses resulting from the accident or injury. Several states "cap," or limit, these damages. Non-economic or "pain and suffering" damages are frequently capped, as are damages in medical malpractice cases. But as of 2012, New Hampshire had no caps on damages in any kind of personal injury case. The last cap on damages in the state applied to medical malpractice cases, but it was overturned in 1980.
Claims Against the Government
If you suspect that your injury occurred as a result of the negligence of a New Hampshire state government agency or employee, your claim falls under a different set of rules. You still have three years to file your claim, but you must file it in a county court in the county where your injury took place, and you must first file a formal injury claim within 180 days of your injury.
What's more, only certain claims can be pursued against the New Hampshire government. Title LII, Section 507:B-2b (snow and ice injuries) and Title LXIV Section 674:54 (zoning) of New Hampshire's laws detail which claims may be brought against the state government. More information about filing an injury claim against a state or local government entity in general is available in our Injury Claims Against the Government section.
"Strict" Liability for Dog Bite/Attack Cases
In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. In New Hampshire however, a specific statute (N. H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 466:19) makes the owner "strictly liable", meaning regardless of the animal's past behavior, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog. Specifically, the statute reads:
“Any person" [caused injury to person or property by anothers persons dog] "shall be entitled to recover damages from the person who owns, keeps, or possesses the dog, unless the damage was occasioned to a person who was engaged in the commission of a trespass or other tort. A parent or guardian shall be liable under this section if the owner or keeper of the dog is a minor.”
More Information on New Hampshire Personal Injury Claims
The New Hampshire Revised Statutes Title LIII: Proceedings in Court contains the full text of the New Hampshire laws that apply to civil court proceedings in personal injury cases. Other sections that apply to specific types of cases, like Title XXI: Motor Vehicles, may also prove helpful.