New Hampshire Motor Vehicle Accident FAQ
In New Hampshire, the statute of limitations on filing a motor vehicle accident lawsuit is three years. This means you have three years from the date of the accident to file a claim to get compensation for injuries or damage to your vehicle. If a loved one died as a result of injuries suffered in the collision, the statute of limitations does not start until the day of your loved one’s passing. However, we recommend filing a claim as soon as possible after the accident. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to gather evidence and find witnesses.
Listed below are questions we commonly hear from our clients on motor vehicle accidents. If you have questions about an accident you or a loved one was involved in, feel free to reach out to us directly by calling 603-669-7070.
Are juries biased against insurance companies?
No. As a matter of fact, jurors often refuse to award victims justified money damages when they should do so, because of the false fear that their own insurance premiums may go up.
The insurance industry has spent billions of advertising dollars to influence the minds of jurors and keep honest victims from receiving “full, fair and adequate” compensation that New Hampshire law calls for.
Courts often declare a mistrial (that is, stop the trial and send everyone home) if even the word “insurance” is heard by jurors in the wrong context, for fear the jury might clobber the defendant’s insurance company.
What jurors should do – what they swear under oath to do – is decide cases only on the basis of evidence, not on the basis of any erroneous belief that an award to the victims will increase their own insurance premiums. What’s fair for one is fair for all – and vice versa.
Are most lawsuits necessary?
Almost all lawsuits are necessary. Contrary to insurance industry propaganda, there is no “lawsuit happy litigation explosion.” In fact, claims for personal injury based on fault have decreased in the past and “runaway jury verdicts” just don’t happen. It’s only in cases involving paralysis, leg or arm amputation, death, or serious burn injuries, that verdicts in the $1 million range occur, says the Jury Verdict Research Group. The real problem is that the billion-dollar insurance company advertising program has “poisoned” the minds of judges and potential jurors through misleading and exaggerated accounts of so often fictional cases. As a result, honest people with honest claims are being denied the “full, fair and adequate compensation” for their injuries, disabilities and their losses that under New Hampshire’s constitution and laws they are supposed to be entitled to.
Please remember this the next time you serve on a jury or hear someone complaining about people who got hurt without any fault on their parts.
Can the lawyer you hire be trusted?
Are you worried about whether the lawyer you hire can be trusted? Lawyers have become the subject of strong criticism, particularly lawyers who represent injured people. While most lawyers are hardworking, honest, and devoted to the interests of their clients, we think the public should be protected from unethical or dishonest conduct by any professional. The lawyers at The Nixon Law Firm, PLLC are members of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA), and these are some of the rules ATLA members must follow:
- No ATLA member shall… contact any party, or an aggrieved survivor, in an attempt to solicit a potential client when there has been no request for such contact…
- No ATLA member shall… go to the scene of an event which caused injury unless requested to do so by an interested party, an aggrieved survivor [or] a relative of either…
- No ATLA member shall… initiate personal contact with a potential client (who is not a client, former client, relative or close personal friend of the attorney) for the purpose of advising that individual of the possibility of a legal claim for damages unless the member forgoes any financial interest…
- No ATLA member shall… file or maintain a frivolous suit, issue or position…
- The ATLA Board of Governors has condemned attorneys or legal clinics who advertise for clients in personal injury cases and who have no intention of handling the cases themselves, but do so for the sole purpose of brokering the case to other attorneys…
- No ATLA member shall… knowingly accept a referral from a person, whether an ATLA member or not, who obtained the representation by conduct which this code prohibits.
Before you hire a lawyer, we recommend you ask what organizations the lawyer belongs to, and what ethical codes the lawyer follows.
Do people sue too much?
No. Contrary to insurance industry propaganda, people in this country, including New Hampshire, are reluctant to file lawsuits. Most Americans who have been injured by the carelessness of others do not file tort cases seeking compensation. A Harvard College study of medical malpractice or negligence found that only 2% of people injured by hospitals or doctors filed claims. Of the few personal injury-tort cases that are filed, about 75% are settled or withdrawn; and only about 3% go to trial, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. And, per the National Center for State Courts, filings in personal injury cases have decreased 16% since 1996.
Roselyn Bonanti, Associate Director of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, has stated, “A careful review of the facts indicates that the ‘litigation explosion’ is a myth created by those seeking to avoid accountability for their wrongful actions that result in harm to others.” Please remember this when anyone tries to tell you that New Hampshire juries are too generous; or when you serve on a petit (civil) jury.
How does the insurance company decide how much you are entitled to?
Let’s say you get smashed into from behind at a stop sign by a drunk or otherwise careless driver; suffer an acute, painful, and disabling cervical strain (called a “whiplash-type” injury); run up about $2,000 in medical bills (some of which may be paid by your accident and health insurance company, subject to the right to make you pay it back); and lay out about $1,500 to get your car towed, garaged, and fixed (which the wrongdoer’s insurance may pay a part of after you complain to the New Hampshire Insurance Department). How does the wrongdoing driver’s insurance company (which is clearly legally responsible to pay for your “damages”) figure out what they owe you? Unfortunately, they increasingly do it by a computer, not a human being (who might have some understanding and sympathy for the way your life, and that of your family, has been disrupted). And the computer, being heartless, simply applies some heartless data to your problem and comes up with a figure to “compensate” you, which often adds up to only your medical expenses and a few hundred dollars for your “trouble.”
Remember this the next time you read about or hear someone complaining about people filing “too many lawsuits.”
How much money can I expect to get when my case is over?
First, you should run away from any lawyer who tries to answer this question before he or she has built your case into the best it can be. No lawyer can, even after meeting with you for that free, initial consultation, tell how much your case is worth. Yes, there are factors that drive most every case; how much are your medical bills or lost earnings, how bad are your injuries, did you require psychological treatment and many others. But, there is a lot more to determining the value of any legal claim.
There are two key factors many people overlook. Nice plaintiffs, that is the people suing, can do better than others. In fact, a nice plaintiff, someone a jury will like, can turn a bad case into a good one. This is true in reverse. A likeable defendant will result in a lower verdict. As a well-regarded New Hampshire judge recently said, we can’t determine the value until we “eyeball” the parties.
If you want a lawyer who will promise you a fortune to get your case, this firm isn’t for you. If you want lawyers with the experience and skill necessary to accurately “eyeball” the parties, including being honest about your jury appeal, contact us below.
I was injured in a crash. Who is supposed to pay my medical bills?
The first question is whether there is medical payments coverage available through your insurance or through the insurance policy of the other driver. This is typically a small amount (usually $5,000) but unless there is a reason to dispute the nature of the accident, that amount is to be paid upfront for your medical bills.
Should you settle your case or go ‘all the way’?
Most people who are hurt in auto crashes, at work, or on someone’s property want a lawyer who is a “fighter.” Some lawyers even advertise (even on coffee mugs!) that “We’ll fight for you!.” That’s all well and good. But you don’t want a lawyer who’d rather fight than win. It could cost you.
In federal court recently a claimant, who was not represented by this firm by the way, said “no” to an offer to settle his case for nearly three million dollars. He said, “Let the jury decide the case.” The jury did. Result? The claimant got zero. Whether you settle your case or “go for broke” is often a tough decision. Your decision should be made carefully, thoughtfully, keeping in mind all the facts and factors – and with the best legal advice you can get.
Bottom line: use your head – and remember that the minds of a lot of jurors these days have been poisoned by insurance company propaganda into thinking that all claimants are “lawsuit-happy.”
What about my spouse?
If you are injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, then your spouse may have the right to receive money from the negligent person. A spouse has the right to the “care, comfort and support” of his or her spouse; and if someone takes that away from you due to negligent conduct, you can recover from them. This claim is called “loss of consortium” and includes the loss of such things as love, comfort, affection, sexual relations, the ability to have children and assistance in maintaining a home.
The law allows your spouse to recover for such losses if you are injured and you should seek the advice of an attorney if you have any questions about whether this right applies to your situation.
As in any negligence case, your claim must be brought within three years of when you know or should have known that you were the victim of negligence.
When the case is over, is it all yours?
No. Sorry about that. Chances are that the gross recovery to you from a settlement or jury verdict as a result of an auto collision or another accident will have to be distributed several ways.
First, any balances due to doctors or hospitals for your medical treatment will have to be paid. Also, if your injuries were also work-related, your workers’ compensation insurance company has a statutory lien or entitlement to recover what it paid to you or for your benefit as workers’ compensation benefits. In other cases, Blue Cross/Blue Shield or some other health care provider or HMO may have a contract right to get paid back what it paid for your care. Also, Medicare or Medicaid has a right of recovery under federal and state law.
Under certain conditions, these liens can be negotiated downward somewhat by your lawyer. Sometimes, the hardest part of resolving cases these days is settling with lienholders after the case is settled or a verdict is awarded.
Other deductions from your gross recovery, of course, are the out-of-pocket expenses paid to investigate and prepare your case, and your lawyer’s contingent fees. But don’t worry, if you have a capable lawyer, you’ll still end up with more than if you’d tried to handle the claim or case yourself.
Who pays the tab when insurance companies make everyone go to court?
Simple – you do. That is, all victims of car crashes and other negligence-caused injuries, and all taxpayers.
Big Insurance spends millions to mislead potential jurors into believing that “lawsuit happy” crash victims and their lawyers are the “bad guys” who make “everyone go to court,” and take jurors away from families and work.
Not. It’s Big Insurance who demands trial by jury most of the time, not auto crash victims – they’d rather settle their claims, and so would their lawyers. And the cost of jury trials is paid for by us taxpayers – you and me. Remember this the next time someone tries to tell you that Big Insurance is “the good hands people,” or “your friendly neighbor.” Big Insurance is in business to take in Big Money, and pay out nickels and dimes – or, more often, zilch.
Why is a jury trial necessary in minor injury cases?
Simple. Because the big insurance companies want it that way, and refuse to honor reasonable claims reasonably.
You see, New Hampshire’s constitution says that in any case where more than $1,500 in damages is claimed, the defendant’s insurance company can demand a jury trial, rather than have the claim settled by arbitration, or by a judge alone. This costs the injured plaintiff a lot of money, takes a lot of time and is resented by jurors. They get paid only $10 for each half day’s work.
Victims of auto collisions don’t want to sue. Neither do their lawyers. They’d rather settle or arbitrate their claims. But when the wrongdoers’ insurance companies refuse to pay reasonable compensation (or often anything at all) for a victim’s injuries, car damage, and other losses, the poor Joe or Jane whose car was rear-ended, or hit by a drunken driver, has no choice but to place the claim in suit. That’s why everybody has to “go to court.” Not because injured victims or their lawyers are “lawsuit happy.”
To Learn More, Contact The Nixon Law Firm, PLLC
If you are thinking about filing motor vehicle accident lawsuit but have questions, set up an initial consultation with my firm to discuss your situation by calling 603-669-7070 or filling out our online contact form. I can evaluate your case and give you feedback on the strength of your claim.