So, you are stopped at the traffic light waiting to make a turn to go into the grocery store when, all of a sudden, you are hit from behind by an SUV. Because you didn’t anticipate the rear-end impact, you had no way to brace for the collision. With the SUV slamming into you, it pushes your car into the car that was in front of you at the light. Unfortunately, this is a common story for many of my clients.
Hit By an Uninsured Driver
After the police arrive, you find out that the other driver is at fault, but that they don’t have car insurance. Because New Hampshire doesn’t have a mandatory insurance law for drivers, this scenario is all-too possible. New Hampshire is a traditional “fault-based” state when it comes to determining liability for an accident: if one party is “at fault” for an accident, that is the party who is required to pay. But if the party at fault has no insurance, what can you do? While the State may suspend the license of an uninsured driver who is at fault for an accident until they pay the balance of your costs from the accident, how can you recover any of your losses?
So long as you have purchased an insurance policy that is above the minimum amount of coverage, New Hampshire requires that you also purchase coverage in the event that an uninsured motorist is at fault in an accident with you. This type of coverage is called Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage, and in New Hampshire it applies only to damages you suffer as a result of bodily injury (BI). This coverage applies at least up to the amount of your personal coverage for BI. This coverage does not apply to normal collision damage to your vehicle, nor any other type of losses you may suffer.
Hit By an Underinsured Driver
Maybe the driver who rear-ended you does have insurance, but their policy provides only the bare minimum coverage. What if your vehicle repair bills, medical bills reach a total greater than this amount? What if you wish to additionally recovery for your pain and suffering as a result of the accident?
The same New Hampshire law guaranteeing UM coverage also guarantees coverage for accidents with other drivers whose coverage amount is lower than your own. In this situation, the underinsured driver’ insurance provider will fulfill your claim up to the amount of their policy, while your provider will cover the difference under your own policy. This, again, will cover only your BI claims, and does not apply to normal collision damage. It will not allow you to make additional claims for your pain and suffering.
How Can I Protect Myself in These Situations?
Because dealing with issues about uninsured and under-insured motorist coverage after a motor vehicle accident can be confusing and complicate any recovery of damages, it is best to have an experienced NH car accident lawyer deal with the insurance companies. If you have been in a NH car accident, you should consult with an experienced New Hampshire personal injury lawyer who can provide you with answers. The attorneys at Douglas, Leonard, & Garvey can be reached at (603) 288-1403 or through our online contact form.