Pain and Suffering Damages in New Hampshire

Planning on skiing the slopes in New Hampshire? Or maybe you’re more into hiking the granite formations or observing fall foliage. Whatever your choice of recreation, and whether you are a tourist or a resident of the Granite State, you’ll want to be aware of the rules for recovering damages, especially on recovery for pain and suffering, should you be involved in an accident in the state. After all, the state’s motto is “Live Free or Die,” not “Live in Pain and Die Broke.”

How Pain and Suffering Damages Work

The topic of “pain and suffering” damages pops up from time to time in legal dramas and politicians’ reform speeches, but what are they really? Pain and suffering damages account for the physical pain and emotional distress that a person deals with after an accident or intentional harm by another person. The emotional distress (or “anguish”) portion of these damages often factors in depression, anxiety, loss of sleep, and other mental symptoms that accompany the injuries sustained. Unlike obviously calculable damages, like medical bills or lost wages, pain and suffering awards are harder to pin down to a dollar amount and are often referred to as non-economic (or “general”) damages.

When calculating a dollar value on pain and suffering, a jury or judge might include:

  • Is the injured party’s daily routine be limited or altered?
  • Does the injury impact relationships at home or work?
  • Does the pain or injury affect sleep or other lifestyle factors?
  • How will the injury impact the party in the long term?

Limits on Pain and Suffering Damages

Because it’s hard to pin down a dollar amount attributable to pain and anguish, there is fear of, and potential for, abuse by sympathetic juries in the form of major awards – sometimes many times higher than the actual economic damages that occurred as a result of an accident. Many states, New Hampshire included, have attempted to limit these damages to keep awards under control. While ostensibly reducing the potential for abuse, these laws also limit the recovery available to those who are legitimately injured and suffering excruciating pain or distress.

Contributory or Comparative Negligence

Comparative Negligence. Party less than 50 percent at fault can recover. Damages reduced by one’s own percentage of fault. (Section 507:7-d)

Non-Economic Damages

None.

Medical Malpractice

None.

Live Free of Damage Caps: New Hampshire Supreme Court

Like many states, New Hampshire did attempt to limit recovery for non-economic damages, including pain and suffering. Fortunately for injured parties, the New Hampshire Supreme Court quickly intervened and struck down those caps. In a 1991 case, the court held that the statute limiting noneconomic damage recovery to $875,000 in all personal injury cases violated the equal protection provision of the State Constitution. In an earlier 1980 medical malpractice case, a limit of $250,000 was struck down for similar reasons.

New Hampshire's Modified Comparative Fault Rules

New Hampshire is a “modified comparative fault” state. In these types of states, the law limits the injured party’s damage recovery in proportion to their degree of fault – and if a party is 50 percent or more at fault, they cannot recover at all. The judge or jury sets percentages of fault for each party, unless a case settles first. For example, if a driver is injured in an accident, but was found to be 15 percent at fault (such as someone speeding), they can recover up to 85 percent of their damages. The other party cannot recover, as they were more than 50% at fault.

Speak to New Hampshire Accident Attorney for Free

Pain and suffering is hard to prove and, even with the lack of caps on damages in New Hampshire, proving damages and justifying a significant recovery are tasks for the most seasoned attorneys. Speak to an experienced attorney for a free claim review where you can discuss your case, strategy, and chances of recovery.

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