Comparative Negligence in New Hampshire

Under New Hampshire’s comparative negligence law, you can collect damages from a car accident unless you’re more than 51% at fault.
Written by Melanie Johnson
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
New Hampshire follows a modified comparative negligence doctrine—also known as the 51% rule—which states that you can recover damages from a car accident unless you’re more than 51% at fault.
Sometimes fault is clear in accidents; sometimes it’s murkier. Your state’s comparative negligence laws will determine how much you can expect to collect from injuries or damages to your vehicle in the event of an accident.
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What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence is a legal term that determines the percentage of fault of all parties in an accident. The rule necessitates mutual negligence in an accident and allows drivers to collect damages proportionate to their degree of fault.
For example, if you are involved in a collision and found to be 20% at fault, you will be responsible for paying 20% of the other driver’s damages. The other driver will be responsible for paying 80% of your damages.
You will not be able to collect damages if you are more at fault than the other party in an accident. This is the crux of New Hampshire’s modified comparative negligence rule. 

Comparative negligence vs. contributory negligence

The three types of comparative negligence are pure comparative negligence, partial or modified comparative negligence, and contributory negligence. 
Every state follows one of these principles:
  • Pure comparative negligence: The injured party may collect damages proportionate to their percentage of fault—unless they are 100% at fault
  • Partial/modified comparative negligence: The injured party may collect damages proportionate to their percentage of fault—unless they are more than 50 or 51% at fault (depending on the state)
  • Contributory negligence: The injured party may not collect damages if they hold any percentage of fault
Only 5 states uphold pure contributory negligence and 12 uphold pure comparative negligence. The majority recognize partial or modified comparative negligence. 

What is New Hampshire’s comparative negligence law? 

New Hampshire is one of 33 states that upholds modified comparative negligence. Under New Hampshire law, you are entitled to collect damages based on your percentage of fault—unless you are 51% or more at fault.
In practical terms, if you’re in an accident and are deemed 30% at fault, the other driver’s insurance will be expected to cover 70% of the damages to your vehicle.

What happens if there are more than two responsible parties? 

If there are more than two individuals at fault in an accident, the fault will be split amongst them based on their proportion of blame.
New Hampshire law states that “the amount of damages to be awarded to each claimant and against each defendant in accordance with the proportionate fault of each of the parties” will be determined by the court.

How is fault decided in a comparative negligence case?

Fault is assigned by insurance companies after assessing the police report and evidence submitted by all parties. 
When reporting a collision to your insurance company, document the accident site judiciously by including the following details:
  • Information on the vehicles involved in the collision—make, model, color
  • Circumstances surrounding the accident (what happened)
  • Weather conditions and time of day
  • Witness accounts
  • Photographs of the accident, damages, and injuries (if any)
This information will help your insurance company accurately assign fault.

Necessary evidence in a comparative negligence case

In a comparative negligence case, the injured party holds the burden of proof, meaning they must prove the defendant acted negligently. The plaintiff must prove:
  • The defendant owed a duty to commit an act or refrain from committing an act 
  • The defendant breached said duty
  • This breach of duty caused injury or harm to the plaintiff
  • The defendant was aware that their actions or inactions could cause harm to the plaintiff
  • The plaintiff has been injured and/or suffered damages (e.g., lost wages, hospital bills)
Without proving these five elements, the plaintiff will have no grounds for collecting damages in a comparative negligence case.

How does car insurance work with comparative negligence? 

Since New Hampshire is a modified comparative negligence state, you are allowed to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company in an accident of which you were partially at fault.
You’ll be able to claim a percentage of damages based on the amount of the other driver’s fault, but your damages will be diminished by your proportion of fault. If you are 51% or more at fault in an accident, you are barred from recovering any damages.
For example, let’s say you are in an accident with a truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel. The truck driver claims that you were intoxicated at the time of the crash. It is decided that you are 51% at fault in the collision—therefore, you will not be able to collect any damages.

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Yes. Your insurance company will calculate your new rate after an at-fault accident based on a variety of factors—like percentage at-fault, previous history, age, etc.—but you can expect your rate to increase by as much as 50%.
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