Who pays when a New Hampshire driver causes an accident?
New Hampshire is the only state in the country that doesn’t require drivers to purchase car insurance . . . sort of.
Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye.
Consider this: There are roughly 500 car accidents in New Hampshire every year that result in serious injuries, according to the United States Department of Transportation.
Understanding car insurance laws in New Hampshire, as well as what to do if you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, can help protect you from financial hardship.
Does New Hampshire have a fault-based insurance system?
New Hampshire has a “fault-based” or “tort” insurance system. Under this system, the person who causes a car accident is financially responsible for the damages that result.
Under New Hampshire’s fault-based insurance system, you have three options for recovering damages from the at-fault party:
- File a claim with your own insurance company, which will then seek compensation from the at-fault party’s insurer (a process known as “subrogation”);
- File a claim directly with the at-fault party’s insurer; or
- File a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party to seek damages.
Under New Hampshire’s modified comparative negligence law, you can still recover damages even if you were partially at fault for an accident. However, your damages will be reduced by your percentage of fault, and you will be unable to recover damages if you are more than 50 percent at fault.
What are the minimum car insurance requirements in New Hampshire?
New Hampshire is the only state in the country that does NOT require drivers to carry motor vehicle insurance.
However, drivers must demonstrate that they have sufficient funds to cover an accident that they cause. Most people accomplish this by purchasing the minimum insurance amounts listed below, but some people choose to file a receipt with the New Hampshire Department of Safety showing a sufficient cash deposit.
If you choose to purchase insurance in order to demonstrate that you have sufficient funds, you must purchase the following minimum amounts:
- $25,000 liability coverage for bodily injury or death of one person in an accident,
- $50,000 liability coverage for total bodily injury or death in an accident, and
- $25,000 liability coverage for property damage in an accident.
You must also purchase the following:
- $1,000 MedPay coverage (provides coverage for medical expenses incurred by you and your passengers regardless of who is at fault for the accident), and
- Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage equal to your liability coverage (provides coverage for bodily injury and property damage sustained by you or the passengers in your vehicle as a result of an accident involving an uninsured driver).
Optional insurance coverage
Auto liability insurance pays for damages suffered by another person caused by an accident in which you were at fault. In other words, it does not pay for YOUR damages if you cause the accident.
Because of this, many people decide to purchase additional types of insurance. Here are some of the most common options in New Hampshire:
- Comprehensive coverage provides coverage for losses other than those caused by a collision (vandalism, falling tree branches, fire, etc.).
- Collision coverage provides coverage for damage to your vehicle caused by an accident with another vehicle or an object (such as a guardrail).
- Personal injury protection (PIP) provides up to $10,000 in coverage regardless of who’s at fault (what’s covered depends on the specific policy).
- Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage provides coverage for bodily injury and property damage sustained by you or the passengers in your vehicle as a result of an accident involving a driver who has insufficient insurance to cover the damages.
Many drivers feel that it’s also a good idea to purchase additional liability insurance, as the minimum liability insurance amounts aren’t likely to be sufficient to cover a catastrophic accident, leaving the driver personally liable for the damages that exceed the policy limits.
What are the penalties for being uninsured in New Hampshire?
Although you’re not required to carry car insurance in New Hampshire, if you cause an accident and it’s determined that you didn’t have sufficient funds to cover the damages, the penalties can be severe.
In addition to being personally liable for the damages, you can receive a fine, lose your license, and lose your registration.
Legal options following an accident with an uninsured driver
If you’re involved in an accident caused by an uninsured driver, your uninsured motorist coverage will cover your damages up to the policy limits. If you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage or your damages exceed the policy amounts, you’ll have to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
How does car insurance work when a friend or family member borrows my vehicle?
Let’s say you let your friend borrow your car for the weekend so they can go on a date. On their way to the restaurant, your friend runs a red light and crashes into a pickup truck. The driver of the truck is seriously injured.
Whose insurance covers the property damage to the truck and the physical injuries suffered by the driver of the truck?
In New Hampshire, liability coverage typically follows the car. This means your insurance policy would cover the damage to the truck and the injuries suffered by the driver (up to the policy limits).
If the damages exceed your policy limits, your friend’s auto insurance policy may serve as secondary coverage.
Collision and comprehensive insurance also typically follow the car in New Hampshire, so your policy would cover the damage to your car.
FAQs about auto insurance in New Hampshire
Still have questions? Let’s see if we can answer them:
Yes. Non-owner car insurance policies are available and can provide liability coverage if you occasionally drive but do not own a car.
Collision coverage pays for damage from accidents, while comprehensive coverage pays for damage from other incidents like theft or natural disasters.
It depends on your policy. Some policies extend coverage to rental cars, but you should check with your insurer.
If you have underinsured motorist coverage, it will kick in to cover the remainder. Otherwise, you may have to sue the at-fault driver for the difference.
In New Hampshire, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is three years. This means you have three years from the date of the accident to file the lawsuit or your lawsuit will be forever barred.
Car accidents can be overwhelming. Understanding car insurance laws in New Hampshire can provide peace of mind and protect you from unexpected financial burdens following an accident. Always consult with an experienced car accident attorney to ensure your rights are protected, and you receive the compensation you deserve.