If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a car accident, the last thing you want to think about is dealing with an insurance company. Our experienced and award-winning New Hampshire car accident attorneys will work tirelessly to ensure you will be properly compensated for your past and future medical bills, lost earnings (and any lost future earning capacity), pain and suffering, and limitations that interfere with your day-to-day activities, work, and pastimes. We focus on your case, so you can concentrate on healing.New Hampshire Car Accident and Personal Injury Laws
Despite the fact that all motorists know they shouldn’t speed, must obey traffic signals, shouldn’t drink and drive, shouldn’t text, and must yield to another motorist’s right-of-way, a disturbingly high number of people do not follow the law. As a result, millions of car accidents occur in the United States every year, with tens of thousands occurring in New Hampshire alone. Many accidents result in serious, life-altering injuries to the driver and his/her passengers.
When a motorist drives drunk or impaired, texts while driving, fails to yield to another driver’s right-of-way, or otherwise violates the law and causes an accident due to their carelessness or recklessness, the motorist will be liable to compensate people harmed by his/her negligence. Accident victims are entitled to compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost income and lost earning capacity, pain, loss of enjoyment of life, and permanent impairment, among other things.New Hampshire Car Accident Insurance Laws
New Hampshire does not have a mandatory insurance law, but the vast majority of drivers in the State carry insurance coverage on their vehicles. If a motorist causes an accident and is not insured, the motorist’s personal assets are recoverable, subject to certain limits under the bankruptcy laws. As a practical matter, someone who takes the risk of driving without insurance almost always has nothing to lose, i.e., they do not have any assets that would be recoverable by victim(s) of the driver’s negligence. In that situation, you will want to look to your own uninsured motorist coverage (or underinsured motorist coverage if the defendant driver has insufficient insurance to compensate you for your injuries). Many people are not aware that they have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on their policies and don’t know what level of coverage they have. Because many drivers have insufficient insurance coverage to compensate accident victims, underinsured motorist coverage can be critically important if you have serious injuries with high medical expenses and lost income.
There may also be insurance coverage to compensate you for your injuries through either your employer’s policy if you were working at the time of the accident or through the defendant driver’s employer, if he/she was acting in the scope of his/her employment when the accident occurred.
There may be other insurance coverage available to compensate you for your injuries of which you are not aware. If you have been seriously injured in an accident, you should take advantage of the free consultations offered by most personal injury law firms. Our firm will advise accident victims of their rights and about the insurance coverage available to them at no charge or obligation, even if they decide they want to try to settle the case on their own without our assistance.Investigations of Serious Car Accidents and the Importance of Preserving Evidence
As soon as possible after a serious car accident, it is advisable to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine whether it would be useful to have the accident investigated and/or reconstructed. Prompt investigation of an accident scene is almost always important, particularly if there is a dispute over who was at fault. Physical evidence at the accident scene such as skid marks can be lost and witnesses’s memories can fade over time.
Even in cases where the other driver was, in your mind, clearly at fault, if your injuries are serious, it is worthwhile consulting with an attorney who specializes in car accident claims. As noted above, almost all personal injury law firms in New Hampshire provide free, no obligation consultations of which you should take full advantage. Although police investigations are generally thorough, limited time and resources, as well as other factors, constrain official investigations, resulting in erroneous findings. Case in point: A client’s family came to us several years ago after he was seriously injured in a car wreck that left him in a coma. Unable to obtain a statement from our client, the investigating officer relied heavily on the defendant motorist’s account, which, as you would expect, placed blame on our client. Our firm hired an expert in accident reconstruction to review the accident scene photos and evidence. We also had a private investigator speak with witnesses to the accident. To make a long story short, additional evidence was uncovered that corroborated our client’s account of how the accident happened and placed fault on the defendant motorist.
After a car accident that results in serious injuries or death, it is also critical to put the defendant driver and his/her insurance company on notice that evidence needs to be preserved. Damage to the defendant’s vehicle can provide insight into how the accident happened. Absent notice of the need to preserve evidence, the defendant’s vehicle may be repaired before the damage can be inspected and photographed. In accidents involving a commercial motor vehicle, the “black box” needs to be preserved, as the data stored on the device can be extremely important in showing what the trucker’s actions were prior to and immediately before the accident. We have had several cases where that data proved to be crucial to the outcome in the case.Behind the Scenes: The Insurance Company’s Investigation
After a serious car accident, the defendant driver’s insurance company will immediately begin its own investigation and assign an “adjuster” to the claim. If the injuries are catastrophic, the insurer will also likely bring in an attorney to supervise the insurer’s investigation. The insurer’s goal, as you would expect, is to build a case that you were wholly or partially at fault. The insurance adjuster or the attorney will reach out to the accident victim and/or his/her family members in an effort to gather information. In order to get you to let your guard down, there will be assurances such as “we’ll take care of you” or something to that effect. Needless to say, you should be wary of such assurances, as the insurance company’s interests are not to help you and your family, but rather are to save the insurance company money.
In serious accident cases, insurance adjuster will frequently hire a private investigator and an expert in accident reconstruction to inspect the accident scene, speak to witnesses, and gather evidence. Few accident victims know that an investigation designed at finding them at fault is going on behind the scenes, many believing (intentionally vague) comments made by the insurance adjuster that the defendant driver is accepting fault for the accident. Insurance adjusters are trained to do and say what is necessary to keep accident victims from hiring an attorney to protect and fight for their interests, knowing full well that delaying an attorney’s involvement almost always works in the insurance company’s favor.
The insurance adjuster’s investigation will also necessarily focus on your injuries, with the goal being to minimize the compensation to which you are entitled. Within days or weeks of an accident, you will receive a request by the insurance company to sign a medical records release form. This release allows the insurance company to probe into your medical records, without limitation and often without any justification, other than to go on a fishing expedition to see if there is any “dirt” in your medical records that can be used against you.Negotiating with the Defendant’s Insurance Company
Insurance adjusters know that financial pressure on an accident victim due to mounting bills is leverage they can use to get you to take a “low ball” settlement, sometimes before you have even recovered from your injuries. Insurance adjusters are also trained to “make nice,” that is, do or say what is necessary to keep an accident victim from contacting an attorney. They know that most accident victims are not nearly as skilled in negotiation as they are. Even skilled negotiators are at a disadvantage if their thoughts and energy are focused on their recovery or they are distracted by mounting financial pressure and other problems in their lives.
Despite overwhelming evidence that victims of serious accidents will fair far better with an attorney in their corner, insurance adjusters frequently make claims that, after deducting the attorney’s fees, you will end up with less than you will receive if you handle the case on your own. These claims are undermined by research conducted by the Insurance Research Council (IRC), an organization supported by property and casualty insurance companies. IRC performed a study that compared the settlements paid to seriously injured accident victims who hired lawyers with the settlements received by people who handled cases themselves. The IRC study showed that, on the average, people who hired a lawyer received three and one half times more money in settlement than those who didn't hire a lawyer. While someone who has relatively minor injuries from a car accident is almost always better off settling his/her case without an attorney’s assistance, serious accident victims who suffer injuries requiring surgery or that have long-term or lifelong consequences will almost always receive more compensation with an experienced personal attorney protecting their rights and interests.
When an accident victim asserts his or her claim, many learn for the first time that the insurance company has been working behind the scenes to undermine their claim. The assurances that “we’ll take care of you” quickly vanish and are replaced with arguments that your were wholly or partially at fault, that some (or all) of your injuries either are not as bad as you claim or pre-existed the accident, that you didn’t lose as much income as you claim, etc. At that point, insurance adjusters give up any pretense of “making nice” and the gloves are off.
Worn down by these arguments, many accident victims will make what they consider to be a reasonable settlement request, only to find out that even that amount is treated as just a starting point for negotiation. The number that the accident victim has placed on settlement will often become a barrier to obtaining a fair settlement if he/she later seeks the assistance of an attorney. Case in point: we were recently hired by a client who, after two years of trying to settle his case on his own, sought our help in resolving his case. After assembling the missing pieces of his case and presenting a comprehensive settlement demand to the insurance company’s adjuster, the adjuster’s first response was to throw out that our client had previously said he was willing to take an amount that was four times less than we were demanding. As you would expect, the insurance adjuster’s knowledge of what our client considered his bottom line presented a major problem for resolving his case for a higher amount. Our persistence, combined with the additional evidence we gathered and the reports from our medical consultants, ultimately paid off and the insurer settled the case for three times what our client previously told the insurance company he was willing to accept to settle his claim. Although we were able to settle the case fairly and reasonably, the fact that our client told the insurance company an amount considerably lower that we felt was fair delayed resolution of the case for almost a year.Settling a Car Accident Claim in New Hampshire that Involves Serious Injuries
Generally speaking, it is not wise to settle your case until you have completed your medical treatment and you have recovered as well as you are going to recover. Once you agree to accept a settlement and sign a release, if your injuries turn out to be worse that expected, you cannot ask the insurance company for additional compensation.
Under New Hampshire law, victims of serious accidents are entitled to compensation for
- past and future medical expenses,
- lost income,
- lost future earning capacity,
- pain and suffering,
- psychological harm,
- inability to engage in day-to-day activities and pastimes,
- and harm caused to relationships.
Insurance companies will not be willing to compensate an accident victim for these injuries unless there is solid evidence to support each and every claim asserted. For example, if a claim for lost future earning capacity is made, the insurance company will almost always require an opinion about work capacity from a vocational rehabilitation expert before it will be willing to compensate an accident victim for future lost earnings. The insurance company knows that the burden is on the claimant to prove his/her claims, so unless and until that proof is provided, it will not be willing to offer compensation for the claimed harm.Peter Thompson & Associates: Expert Legal and Compassionate Help for New Hampshire Car Accident Victims
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates today. Our award-winning attorneys will immediately begin investigating your case and gathering evidence to protect your rights and interests. We have over 60 years combined experience negotiating with insurance companies and obtaining excellent results for our clients. If the insurance company is not willing to be reasonable, we have the skills and resources to win your case in court. With over 100 court victories and 98 percent success rate overall, our attorneys’ track record is among the best in New England.
While we are proud of the outstanding results we have consistently achieved for our clients, our greatest satisfaction comes from our clients’ positive reviews and feedback. In surveys competed by our clients at the conclusion of their cases, they rated us 4.9 out of 5 stars for “client satisfaction” and “responsiveness” with 100% stating they “would recommend” us to others. At Peter Thompson & Associates, every client matters to us.
We have offices throughout New Hampshire and will come to your home or the hospital if you have difficulty getting around or are unable to come to us. To speak with one of our attorneys, call 800-804-2004 or fill out the online contact form.