If you’ve been injured in a car accident in the State of New Hampshire, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage and/or personal injury claim. In this article, we’ll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents. To read the entirety of each law, click the link to the specific State of New Hampshire statutes in each section.
Here are the New Hampshire car accident and traffic laws we’ll cover:
Pedestrians and Crosswalks
When traffic control signals are not in place or not operating, the driver of a vehicle must yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is in the path of the vehicle or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely as to be in danger.
Restrictions on Pedestrians Crossing Roadways
No pedestrian must suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.
Pedestrian Control Signals
Whenever special pedestrian control signals, exhibiting the words Walk or Don’t Walk are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:
- Walk. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right of way by the drivers of all vehicles.
- Don’t Walk. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal, whether flashing or steady. Any pedestrian who has partially completed the pedestrian’s crossing on the Walk signal shall complete the crossing to a sidewalk or safety island while the Don’t Walk signal is showing.
Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks
Pedestrians intending to cross a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.
Pedestrians must use only the marked crosswalk to cross between two adjacent intersections that have traffic-control signals in operation.
Pedestrians can cross an intersection diagonally only when it is authorized by traffic-control devices.
Pedestrians on Roadway
Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon adjacent roadway.
Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the left side of the roadway or on it’s shoulder facing traffic from the opposite direction.
Pedestrians’ Right of Way on Sidewalks
The driver of a vehicle emerging from or entering an alley, building, private road, or driveway shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian approaching on any sidewalk extending across the alley, building entrance, road, or driveway.
Drivers to Exercise Due Care
The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the driver’s horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused, incapacitated or intoxicated person.
Obedience to Traffic Control Devices
A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver, unless directed by a traffic or police officer.
Driving on Right Side of Roadway
Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:
- When passing another driver in the same direction
- When there is an obstruction in the right lane
- Upon a roadway with three marked lanes of traffic
- Upon a roadway restricted to one way traffic
Passing On the Left
Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and shall remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane. Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.
Limitations on Overtaking on the Left
Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only if the left side is clearly visible and the overtaking vehicle can return to its lane without coming within two hundred feet of oncoming traffic.
Passing On the Right
Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:
- When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
- When the roadway has two (2) or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.
- On a one-way street where the roadway is free from obstructions and wide enough for two or more lines of moving vehicles.
Following Too Closely
A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is “reasonable and prudent”, having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway. A driver who is towing another vehicle must leave sufficient space ahead of their vehicle to allow an overtaking vehicle to enter and occupy this space without danger.
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices
Drivers must not drive while using a handheld mobile electronic device, unless they are selecting a phone number to make a phone call, and except for the sole purpose of contacting emergency services.
Drivers and Intersections
When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver to their right.
Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections
A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.
Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway
A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all other vehicles on the roadway to be crossed.
Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
Motorcyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
Motorcyclists and Lanes of Traffic
Motorcyclists are entitled to the full use of a traffic lane and drivers must not take any action to deprive a motorcyclist of his or her right to use a full lane on a roadway. A motorcyclist must not pass another driver in the same lane. Motorcyclists must not ride more than two (2) abreast in a single lane.
Motorcyclists must not pass another driver in the same lane. Commonly known as “lane splitting,” motorcyclists sometimes attempt to pass other drivers when traffic is slowed, or bumper to bumper. To move forward through traffic motorcyclists sometimes drive between cars. Doing so is not only illegal, but quite dangerous.
All motorcyclists and passengers who are less than 18 years of age must wear helmets while riding on roadways.
Motorcycles and Headlights
From thirty minutes after sunset until thirty minutes before sunrise, every motorcycle riding on a roadway must have at least one headlight turned on.
Driving Offenses and Accident Requirements
A drivers who drives a vehicle negligently or causes a vehicle to be driven negligently, or who endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property, is guilty of negligent driving and can be fined.
A driver who drives a vehicle recklessly, or causes a vehicle to be driven recklessly, and endangers the lives or safety of the public, or who drives upon a bet, wager, or race, or who drives a vehicle for the purpose of making a record, or who drives a vehicle at a speed of 100 miles per hour or greater, is guilty of reckless driving, and can be fined and imprisoned.
Driver’s Duty to Give Information
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death or property damage must give the driver’s name and address, driver’s license number, the registration number of the vehicle and the name and address of each occupant to any person involved in the accident and to any police officer investigating the accident.
Driver’s Duty to Notify Police Department
Within 15 days of an accident, any person driving a vehicle involved in an accident or any person who owns a vehicle which was illegally parked when it was involved in an accident must report the accident to the division in writing, including a statement of the circumstances if any person is injured or killed, or if damage to property is in excess of $1,000, unless the accident is investigated by a police officer.
Accident Reports Filed By Police Departments
In an accident resulting in death, injury, or property damage, the police officer who investigates the accident must complete and forward one copy of such report to the division, within 5 days after completing their investigation. The report must call for detailed information about the cause of the accident, the conditions then existing and the persons and vehicles involved including the names and addresses of all occupants of the vehicles involved, as well as the enforcement action taken.
In an accident resulting in death, the police officer who investigates the accident must provide written notice to the department of safety within 7 days of the accident.
Accident Report Forms
The commissioner must prescribe an accident report form for each police department and officer and other suitable agencies or individuals.
Open Alcohol Container Law
A driver or passenger must not be in possession of an opened container of an alcoholic beverage while the car is on New Hampshire roadways. An opened alcoholic beverage container can be kept only in the trunk of a vehicle or in an area that is least accessible to the driver. It cannot be kept in the utility or glove compartment.
Passengers of a hired vehicle can possess an opened container if the container is not in the driver’s area.
Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance
A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways. In New Hampshire, a driver is guilty of the offense of Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.
Ignition Interlock Device
A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant might be ordered to have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver’s driving privileges during the pendency of the driver’s probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.
An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver’s body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device. If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge. At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.
New Hampshire Dram Shop Law
New Hampshire has a modified Dram Shop Law. Dram Shop Law refers to the liability of private social hosts, bars, hotels nightclubs and other commercial establishments who serve alcohol to patrons or to minors for injuries intoxicated patrons or minors cause to third parties such as in car accidents.
A private social host is the host at a private party, such as a wedding reception, a corporate sponsored event, a gathering of friends at a private residence, where alcohol is served not for profit.
Under New Hampshire law, a person who serves alcohol to a minor or an intoxicated person is liable for the personal injuries and property damages caused by the intoxicated person.
Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits
In the State of New Hampshire, every driver must be able to demonstrate that they can provide the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:
- At least $25,000 per person
- At least $50,000 for two or more people
- $25,000 per occurrence for property damage
New Hampshire Insurance Information
For information about auto insurance, see the New Hampshire Department of Insurance website.
Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)
In New Hampshire, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim’s liability in causing the accident, their comparative negligence, affects the amount of compensation the victim receives.
If the victim contributed less than 51% of the negligence that caused the accident, then their compensation is reduced by the amount they contributed to the accident. If the victim contributed 51% or more of the negligence that caused the accident, then the victim is barred from receiving any compensation.
Example of Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)
One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie’s lane and their cars collided.
Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.
After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson’s car crashed into Melanie’s. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving.
Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way. However, the jury also found Melissa liable for using a mobile device while driving and partially responsible for the accident.
The verdict stated Jackson’s negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie’s equaled 30%. The jury awarded Melanie only $70,000 dollars.
In the event the jury had found Jackson’s negligence equaled 49% of the accident, and Melanie’s equaled 51%, the jury would be barred by law from awarding Melanie any compensation for the damages.
Comparative Negligence: Section LII-507-7-d
Right of Way: Section XXI-265-29
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Section XXI-265-105a
New Hampshire’s Fault-based Car Insurance
In New Hampshire, the law does not require car owners to purchase auto insurance, but they must be able to demonstrate that they can provide sufficient funds to meet New Hampshire Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Requirements in the event of an at-fault accident.
If a driver is unable to meet these requirements, their driving privileges in New Hampshire may be suspended. Victims can file a claim with either their own insurance company or the insurance company of the at-fault driver.
For information about auto insurance, see the New Hampshire Guide to Auto Insurance handbook.
Statute of Limitations
New Hampshire has a three (3) year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. If the victim fails to file their claim within the three (3) year period following an accident, then the victim is barred from pursuing the negligent driver in court.
Small Claims Courts
In New Hampshire, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court. The jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of $10,000, exclusive of filing fees and court costs.
For information about small claims court, visit the New Hampshire Judicial Branch website.
New Hampshire Government Tort Claims – Sovereign Immunity
In New Hampshire, it is possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage as a result of negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees. The claim must refer to an lawful action on the part of the governmental agency or employee performed in the scope of their duties. If the injury or property damage occurred as a result of an unlawful action, then the claimant can sue only the person(s) who caused injury or property damage individually. The governmental agency would not be liable.
New Hampshire places caps of $475,000 per claimant and $3.75 million per incident as the maximum amount of damages that can be claimed against a government agency or its employees.
A government tort claim must be filed against the governmental agency responsible for the car accident within 180 days following the accident.
If Melissa, an engineer with the Manchester Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a worksite and caused an accident, then the City of Manchester would be liable for the property damage and personal injuries caused by her.
If Melissa stopped for a few drinks and became intoxicated before heading to a worksite and causing an accident, then the City of Manchester can claim sovereign immunity. Melissa performed an unlawful act and was not acting in the scope of her duties when she became intoxicated on her way to the worksite.
To seek compensation for damages, injured parties would have to sue Melissa personally. The determination of whether or not Melissa was acting within the scope of her duties would have to be decided during a trial.
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