Car accidents are a relatively commonplace occurrence in New Hampshire. Yet many people do not know exactly what to do after an accident occurs. To make sure you understand how you can protect your legal rights, clearly follow the five basic steps outlined below. This is to protect you personal health and safety, protect your legal rights and fulfill legal responsibilities.
Step 1: Do Not Flee the Scene of the Accident
A car accident can be a terrifying event. For some, the experience triggers the “fight or flight” urge. The results of succumbing to this urge are illegal, dangerous, and often costly. Do not flee the scene of a car accident, regardless of whether fault rests with you or another driver. If you flee, you may be subject to hefty lines, loss of your driver’s license, and even criminal charges.
Instead, first check for injuries. If you are seriously injured but still able to use your cell phone, call an ambulance to ensure that you receive medical treatment as soon as possible. A delay in medical treatment can worsen an already serious injury. Second, if you can do so safely, move your person or your vehicle to a safe location outside the continuing flow of traffic. Almost always, this will be the shoulder or side of the road. Don’t take any risks; the last thing you need after being struck by one vehicle is to be struck by another.
Step 2: Share Information With All Drivers Involved In The Accident
- Phone Number
- License Plate Numbers
- Driver’s License Numbers
- Insurance Information
New Hampshire is a “fault” state with regard to car insurance. This designation affords victims of car accidents the option to either negotiate a settlement with an at-fault driver’s insurance provider or bring an at-fault driver to court through a lawsuit for legal damages. Whatever option you choose, you will need the information about the at-fault party or parties to proceed. If another driver is resistant to provide personal information, at least make sure you record the driver’s license plate number and attempt to identify the make and model of the vehicle.
Step 3: If It Is Possible To Do So Safely, Gather Evidence Of The Accident
Whether you first attempt to negotiate a settlement with an at-fault driver’s car insurance provider or go straight to bringing the driver to court in a lawsuit for damages, you will need to objectively establish fault. Fault is proved with evidence, so if you can do so safely, gather evidence of the scene of the accident. First, use your cell phone to photograph the vehicles involved, any injuries to your person, property damage, downed tree limbs, and skid marks on the road. Next, attempt to get the names and phone numbers of individuals who witnessed the occurrence of the accident. Both images of the scene of the accident and the testimony of witnesses may be valuable evidence in proving the negligent, reckless, or intentionally wrongful conduct of another driver.
Step 4: Call the Police OR File A Motor Vehicle Accident Report With The DMV
in New Hampshire, there are circumstances in which you must file a Motor Vehicle Accident Report with the Division of Motor Vehicles. These circumstance include:
- when damages (e.g. car repairs) are more than $1,000;
- when someone was injured;
- when someone was killed.
If any of the above circumstances match the accident in which you were involved, you must file the report within 15 days of the accident. Failure to do so when an injury or death occurred is a felony.
If police officers are called to the scene, then the report that they file with the DMV will satisfy this requirement. If they are not called, however, then you may be required to fill out an Operator’s Report and mail it to the DMV at:
NH Dept. of Safety
DMV – FR / Accidents
23 Hazen Drive
Concord NH 03305
In some cases, even if the police are called, you may want to send the Operator’s report to the DMV on your own. This is to assist in expediting some insurance matters, as the police submission may take several weeks, delaying a resolution.
Step 5: Contact A New Hampshire Car Accident Attorney
If you have been involved in a car accident in New Hampshire, you will benefit from the skill of an experienced New Hampshire car accident attorney. Remember, if you are unable to negotiate a fair settlement with an at-fault driver’s car insurance provider, you are able to bring the at-fault driver to court in a lawsuit for damages under New Hampshire’s “fault” car insurance system. However, New Hampshire imposes a statute of limitations on the period of time in which a lawsuit may be filed. If you wait too long after an accident, you may forfeit the right to sue.
An attorney will evaluate your unique circumstances and inform you of the nature and extent of any legal claims available to you. You may be entitled to compensation, including the cost of present and future medical treatment, car repairs or replacement, lost salary or wages due to missed work, pain and suffering, and other losses. A car accident can jeopardize your personal health and safety, as well as your finances. An experienced New Hampshire car accident attorney will work to obtain the financial compensation you need and deserve after an accident.