In addition to seeking criminal prosecution against the perpetrator, victims of sexual abuse in New Hampshire have the right to bring a civil case to obtain just compensation for their injuries. In New Hampshire, the statute of limitations for such claims is three years. However, if the victim is under the age of 18, they will typically have until their 30th birthday to bring a civil lawsuit against those responsible. Typically, the perpetrator of the sexual assault, rape or abuse does not possess personal assets sufficient to justify long and difficult civil litigation. Moreover, even if the perpetrator has insurance, such as a homeowners policy, such insurance will not provide coverage for intentional wrongful conduct such as sexual assault. The cases which carry the highest chances of a successful result are those brought against institutional defendants. This class of defendants include employers of the perpetrator, schools, day care centers, boy scout troops or camps, churches and religious organizations, agencies who provide services to children or disabled adults, and a variety of other companies or institutions who wrongfully employ or harbor perpetrators. Generally, in order to succeed in one of these cases, it is necessary to prove that the institution exercised a certain level of control over the perpetrator, i.e., hiring, training and retaining. It is also necessary to show that the institution knew or should have known of the propensity of the perpetrator to sexually abuse others. Finally, it is also typically necessary to show that the institution owed a duty of care to the victim - a duty to protect. These cases are always very emotional, and can be difficult to prove and to litigate. In a case where the allegations can be proven, however, and where the legal requirements of civil liability can be established, the filing of a civil action can provide the sexual abuse victim both with validation and a sense of closure, and also financial compensation from the responsible party for the terrible and life long impact of sexual abuse. A personal injury lawyer or attorney experienced in these cases and familiar with New Hampshire law can provide sound advice and counsel to a victim survivor of abuse about their potential right to seek civil justice.
Wrongful death cases in New Hampshire are controlled both by statute statute and common law interpreting those statutes. A wrongful death case is, quite simply, a personal injury negligence case in which the injured party dies as a result of the negligent act or occurrence. As such, the liability considerations are the same as an injury case in which the victim survives, i.e., legal fault or negligence must be proven against the responsible party. Damages in a wrongful death case, however, are quite obviously different than in a typical bodily injury claim. A wrongful death case is brought by the Estate of the decedent. Therefore, it is necessary to have an administrator appointed by the Probate Court before proceeding. Once a claim or lawsuit is brought, the Estate is entitled to claim monetary damages for: (1) any medical bills associated with the treatment of the decedent; (2) conscious pain and suffering; (3) funeral expenses; (4) economic loss to the Estate; and (5) loss of the enjoyment of life of the decedent. Economic loss to the estate requires expert testimony. The damages are calculated by determining the life expectancy of the decedent. Then, the decedent's educational and work background are considered, as well as their income prior to death. That "income" factor is then roughly multiplied by the number of working years before retirement - a factor which may vary depending upon the person. Interest rates and calculations for loss of benefits are included to come up with a figure representing the "income" the decedent would have "brought into" his or her Estate. Then, a discount is applied for "retirement years" when the person would have been consuming, and not earning. The final figure is what would have been left in the Estate had the person lived to their normal life expectancy. The calculations can vary significantly depending upon the person's age, education, earning history, working years remaining, and general health prior to death. This is why economic and sometimes medical forensic expert testimony is necessary to establish this element of loss. The element of "loss of enjoyment of life" is relatively new, having been established by Supreme Court decision in the 1990's. This is an open ended damage claim which allows the Estate to receive compensation for the loss of the decedent's life, i.e., the years of enjoying life that the decedent lost as a result of the accident. This element can be significant in the case of a child or young person who does not yet have an solid earnings history to prove the "loss to the estate" element. It is also significant in cases of retired individuals since it is during retirement years that a person, while not earning income, is theoretically freed to enjoy life without the burden of working. The key in these cases is in the manner in which the damages are developed and presented to an insurance company for settlement, or to a jury for a verdict. These cases are complex, and typically very emotional for the family involved. Therefore, it is recommended that a highly regarded New Hampshire personal injury lawyer be consulting as soon as possible so that case investigation and development can proceed in such a manner as to maximize the value of the claim. Also, by retaining counsel early, much of the emotional work and worry can be removed from the family members and turned over into the hands of a professional.
Being involved in an automobile or motor vehicle accident can be a very confusing and traumatic event. Many times, especially if an accident victim has never been in an accident before, they are very unsure of what to do. If you or a passenger are injured in an auto crash that is not your fault, or if you are struck by a car while on a bicycle or walking as a pedestrian, you should do the following if possible: (1) Call the police to the scene while the other driver is still there so that the officer can conduct an investigation, preserve evidence, and issue a report; (2) If there are witnesses to the accident, try to obtain their contact information, or at least ask them to stay until the police arrive; (3) Obtain the name and contact information of the person that hit you, and take down their license plate number; (4) Obtain the insurance information of the person that hit you; (5) If you believe you are injured at all, contact an ambulance or accept transportation by ambulance if offered by the police officer; (6) Do not tell the police officer or anyone else that you are "OK" if you are not; (7) Take photographs of the accident scene, skid marks and the vehicles involved or, if you are unable, ask someone else to do it; (8) If you are injured, go to the emergency room of the nearest hospital; (9) Contact your own insurance company to report the accident and to advise them you are injured; (10) Follow up with your family doctor or a medical specialist for treatment; and (11) Keep copies of all paperwork involving the accident, damage to your car, and your injuries. Remember, even if the person that hit you does not have insurance, you can make an uninsured motorist claim for your injuries against your own insurance company. It is a right for which you have paid premiums, and it will not cause your premiums to increase. Therefore, in any accident where you or a passenger are injured, you do have a right to be compensated and covered for your injuries and other damages, such as lost wages. Also, given the complexities of the various insurances that will be involved, and given the danger that you could inadvertantly say or do something that may prejudice your case, it is advised that you contact a New Hampshire personal injury attorney as soon as possible to represent you and guide you through the process in order to take the stress off of you, and to make sure that things are done correctly and in accordance with the law, regulations and procedures so that you get the compensation you deserve, and don't lose or forfeit any rights you may have.
The New Hampshire superior courts have consistently applied what is known as the "collateral source rule" to claims for medical bills in negligence, personal injury, auto accident, slip and fall and dog bite cases. What that means is that if you are injured through the fault of another, you and your lawyer are entitled to claim the full gross amount of medical bills as part of your damages in the case agains their insurance company. This is true even if your health insurer, whether private or government, actually pays less than the full amount of the bill. For example, if you have an MRI for $1,000, your health insurance will likely pay only $400 or so, with the rest being written off per the agreement between the health carrier and the hospital. However, in your case against the negligent party, you can claim the full $1,000 as damages, and a jury will never be told that a lesser amount was actually paid. This is a good rule because why should a negligent person and their insurance company benefit from the fact that you were wise enough to make sure you had health insurance to protect yourself and your family. Insurance companies and their lawyers consistently challenge this rule, however the trial courts have consistently applied it, and the issue has yet to be squarely presented to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
President's Obama's announcment this week that he is extending the ability of people who have had their individual health plans canceled by one year is causing confusion among policy holders and govenment officials in Hampshire. In early October, thousands of New Hampshire residents with individual health insurance plans from health carriers such as Anthem received notices that due to the restrictions and conditions of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, their current policies were no longer available and were being canceled. These people were directed to contact the health carrier for options, or to search for new coverage in the "exchange," through the now infamous healthcare government website. In the fact of extreme political pressure, particularly in light of the President's prior promise that "if you like your current health plan, you will be able to keep it," Obama announced this week that policyholders will be allowed to keep their current plans for an additional year. The problem that I have been hearing with this new twist, however, is that the plans that have been canceled are no longer available. In other words, trying to extend your old plan is like trying to purchase a product that is no longer being manufactured, and is no longer available for purchase on store shelves. Therefore, while the President's proposal may soften political pressure from some circles (although that appears doubtful), the question is will it have any effect for the policyholders that have already had their coverage canceled? The New Hampshire Insurance Commission was also caught by surprise by this announcement, and must now determine whether such a retroactive extension of canceled health insurance plans is possible under New Hampshire law and New Hampshire's insurance regulatory scheme. Stay tuned. The problem with all of this is that people are facing a potential "gap" in their health coverage, which could have catastrophic results in the event of a serious personal injury from an auto accident or through the negligent conduct of others. This is all the more reason that, at the very least, people should make sure that their personal auto insurance policies and homeowner's policies, and in particular medical payment limits and uninsured motorist limits are sufficiently high to cover the anticipated medical expenses associated with such accidental injury.