In July 2021, a four-vehicle collision (including a semi-trailer truck) shut down several lanes of traffic on I-93 in New Hampshire. Fortunately, none of the injuries were life-threatening, but the accident itself is an object lesson in the complexities of figuring out percentages of fault under New Hampshire’s tort laws. Multiple personal injury lawsuits are likely to result from this crash. Because NH is a “modified comparative fault” state, it may take a significant amount of time (and extremely skillful negotiating and arguing in court) to determine who is responsible for what portion of the accident, who should pay, and how much.
Understanding New Hampshire’s Modified Comparative Fault Law
New Hampshire is a modified comparative fault state, meaning that plaintiffs in personal injury cases can only claim the percentage of damages for which they were not at fault. Furthermore, if the plaintiff was 51 percent or more negligent in the accident, they cannot recover any damages even though the defendant shares some responsibility for the crash that caused the injuries! Let’s look at some scenarios to illustrate how this works in New Hampshire.
Scenario 1: You are injured in a car accident with another driver who sideswiped you on the highway by coming into your lane with no turn signal. The other driver should have signaled and looked, so he is technically liable for the crash. However, an investigation concludes that you were in the other driver’s blind spot when he came over. The court concludes that you were 25 percent negligent in the crash, and the other driver was 75 percent negligent. This means you can only recover 75 percent of the total damages you would have normally received—and you’ll effectively have to pay for 25 percent of your recovery.
Scenario 2: You are injured in a car accident with another driver who crossed the median of an interstate, sideswiped you, and then hit the cement barrier. A field sobriety test revealed the other driver had a BAC level of 1.2 percent. The other driver is 100 percent at fault for the crash because he crossed into oncoming traffic without warning, and while intoxicated. You would be entitled to 100 percent of the damages from that accident.
Scenario 3: You are struck by a car while walking across the street. You were in the crosswalk, but it was extremely dark, you were wearing black clothes, and you were intoxicated. The driver claims she saw you a second before the accident and tried to swerve but had no time. Your injuries are severe, but you survived because she swerved. The courts determine you were 60 percent at fault in the accident. Under New Hampshire law, you can collect no damages from the driver.
Proving negligence in an injury accident can be challenging enough; proving negligence in a comparative fault state like New Hampshire, even more so. In most situations, it requires the help of a skilled personal injury attorney to help steer comparative fault percentages in your favor and get you the highest settlement possible to cover your injuries and recovery. Our team of attorneys has plenty of experience in complex personal injury cases, and we will fight on your behalf to get you the full compensation you deserve. Contact Tenn And Tenn, P.A., to schedule your free initial consultation today.