If a person is killed in an automobile accident or other incident which due to the fault and negligence of another person, the Estate of the decedent may pursue what is known as a wrongful death case. The first step is for an admininstrator to be named for the Estate. This is done in probate court. Next, the claim is presented on behalf of the Estate. Under New Hampshire law, spouses and minor children of the decedent have their own separate claims. Damages are controlled by state statute (RSA 556) and interpretive case law. In short, the Estate is entitled to damages for economic loss to the Estate, medical and funeral bills, conscious pain and suffering of the decedent, and loss of the enjoyment of life of the decedent. The spouse and/or children are entitled to capped damages for loss of consortium. I am currently handling several wrongful death negligence actions, and these can be emotional, difficult and complicated matters. As in most cases, as difficult as it may be, the sooner an attorney is contacted to assist the better. We can provide a variety of services in addition to simply pursuing the wrongful death claim, and the fee for these services is typically included in the overall contingency fee for the wrongful death action.
As pedestrians in New Hampshire, we encounter a lot of snow and ice during the winter months. These slippery and often hazardous conditions cause slips and falls which can result in serious personal injury. Often victims of these accidents wonder whether they have a case, and whether they can recover compensation for their damages, which many times are significant. The answer is yes, however pursuing such a case is not always easy. First, there must be a responsible party who has a legal duty to properly and safely maintain the hazardous area, whether it be a sidewalk, parking lot, steps and grounds of a condominium or apartment, or any other public or private place. Second, it must be demonstrated that the responsible party was negligent in their maintenance of the area, i.e., snow clearing, salting and sanding. Third, under a new law passed last year by the New Hampshire legislature, if the property owner or snow removal contractor is "certified" by the state, they may well have civil immunity for claims arising from a failure to properly salt or sand. Fourth, responsible parties in these cases always blame the injured person, claiming that the should have done a better job watching where they were walking. Therefore, in these cases like most other injury cases, it is very important for the victim of a slip and fall to contact an attorney at the earliest possible time. It is also important to take contemporaneous photographs of the area of the fall. Property owners and businesses will often quickly rectify a negligent situation after receiving notice of the injury, so therefore, in order to preserve evidence of the condition for future use in the claims process or in court, photographs are critical. The Law Offices of Peter E. Hutchins, PLLC represent scores of injured people who have suffered due to winter slips and falls. Please call for an appointment.
Under New Hampshire law and the law of most states, governmental units are immune from civil liability for certain governmental functions. However, when it comes to the operation of a motor vehicle, employees of government units, including the state, cities and towns, can be held liable just like any other citizen. Also, while snow plows are certainly entitled to a certain level of deference from other drivers since they are doing difficult jobs during difficult weather conditions, by the same token plow operators must use reasonable care in the performance of their duties. Therefore, the bottom line is that if a motorist is injured in an accident caused by the negligence of the operator of a snow plow, they can recover for their injuries. Quite often, government units purchase special liablity insurance specifically for their fleets of vehicles including plows. So, if you are injured through the fault of a state or city vehicle, you should contact a personal injury attorney to pursue your rights under the law.
So far, we have experienced a snowy and cold winter here in New Hampshire and in the Northeast. The evening newscasts seem daily to feature stories about serious auto accidents where the occupants are seriously injured and sometimes, unfortunately, killed. Under New Hampshire common law and statutory law (RSA 265:60, I), all drivers are required to operate their vehicles at appropriate and reasonable speeds "under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing." What this means is that we are all required to reduce our speeds in order to maintain control of our vehicles in the event of bad weather and slippery, icy or snowy roads. More often than not, an accident in winter weather is the result of one driver failing to reduce their speed, losing control, and then typically overreacting to that loss of control. The result, an accident with someone being injured. It is important for all of us to take special care when diving under these conditions. If you are injured through the negligent failiure of another driver to drive carefully on winter roads, you should contact a personal injury attorney to advise you as to your rights.
The answer to this question, unfortunately, is probably "no." New Hampshire has an immunity statute which affords broad protection to ski area operators from claims for injuries to skiers. The statute, which prohibits civil lawsuits for injuries arising from "inherent risks" of the sport, has been very broadly interpreted by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, particularly in the case of Cecere v. Loon Mountain, a case which I handled a number of years ago. Basically, if you are injured due to any defect in the mountain or its maintenance or operation, no matter how gross the negligence or serious your injury, you cannot bring a lawsuit for your injuries. Cases which do survivie include collisions with other skiers, however, your claim must be against the skier him or herself, and NOT the ski area. The hope in that instance is that the negligent skier has homeowner's insurance which will cover your damages. Another exception is a defect in the tramway or lift - if a lift collapses or otherwise causes an injury to a skier, there may be an exception in the immunity statute which would allow the injured person to recover. The lesson to be learned, therefore, is that when it comes to skiing in New Hampshire, you are on your own, and the law will find that you accepted the risks of skiing when you made the decision to ski. So, be CAREFUL out there.
The driver in a horrific car crash occurring in Derry, New Hampshire on New Year's Eve has died from his injuries. The accident occurred at around 10:30pm on Gulf Road in Derry. The vehicle crashed into a tree at a high rate of speed.
Another tragic holiday season auto accident has taken the life of a well known and highly regarded former fire chief in Amherst, New Hampshire. The accident was a hit and run accident. The driver has turned himself in to authorities, and has been arraigned on charges of negligent homicide. It appears as though this is yet another tragic case of distracted driving, with the driver admitting to have been emailing on his phone at the time he struck and killed the pedestrian. He was arraigned at the Nashua District Court on Tuesday, and has been released on bail into the custody of his parents.
The tragic fatal auto accident which took the life of 30 year old Katie Hamilton in Hollis / Brookline, New Hampshire on Christmas Eve has brought us all a reminder that tragedies do not take holidays. The story was made all the more heartwrenching by the fact that Katie's father, Stephen Whitcomb, who is a volunteer firefighter, responded to the scene of the three car accident which took the life of his daughter.
On December 19, 2013, after 7 days of trial and 2 full days of deliberations, a twelve person Hillsborough County Superior Court jury sitting in Manchester, New Hampshire returned a verdict in favor of a former Bedford man who was raped while a patient in the adolescent mental health unit at the Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, NH in March of 2007. Cheshire Medical Center is affiliated with the Dartmouth Hitchcock Health System. The victim was represented by Attorney Peter E. Hutchins of Manchester, NH. The hospital was represented by the Sulloway & Hollis lawfirm of Concord, NH. The victim of the assault was 15 years old at the time, and was raped by his roommate on the last night of his 5 day inpatient admission at the hospital. The perpetrator, who had a history of violence, suicide attempts, sexually inappropriate conduct and who admitted to having been a sexual abuser, had just been admitted to the hospital that day. The perpetrator was 17 years old, and outweighed the plaintiff by 70 pounds. The plaintiff, now 21 years old, alleged that the hospital and its staff was negligent in placing the dangerous new patient in his room that night without performing additional fact finding on the perpetrator and his history of violent and sexually inappropriate conduct. The perpetrator had received psychotherapy previously, but the hospital failed to obtain those records or determine the nature and extent of that therapy. The perpetrator was also on probation at the time of his admission for attacking his father with both a car and a maul (ax / sledgehammer type tool). The plaintiff also alleged that the hospital violated the New Hampshire Patient's Bill of Rights, RSA 151:21, by failing to keep him free from "physical and sexual abuse." The hospital's primary defense at trial was that the rape did not occur, and that the victim was lying. The hospital further claimed it was not negligent, and that it was reasonable medical practice to have placed the perpetrator in the victim's room that night. The jury found that the assault did take place, and further found that the hospital was both negligent and had violated the patient's statutory rights. At trial, the victim plaintiff asked the jury for "closure and validation." Medical professionals testified that the victim had suffered from PTSD, nightmares, flashbacks and increased anxiety as a result of the attack. The victim disclosed the rape 5 months after the assault to a social worker / psychologist when he was brought back to the Cheshire Medcial Center emergency room by his mother for increasing rage and acting out. The victim testified he never planned to disclose the assault to anyone ever, however feared being readmitted to the mental health unit again due to what had occurred to him months before. The jury awarded the plaintiff $250,000.00 in compensatory damages. It is the hope of the plaintiff that the hospital and Dartmouth Hitchcock will abide by the verdict of the jury and promptly pay the judgment so that he can close this chapter of his life and move forward. The hospital, under New Hampshire law, has a right to appeal the verdict to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, however only on alleged errors in legal rulings made by the trial judge during the trial. Attorney Hutchins has represented over 200 victims of sexual abuse in claims and cases against institutional defendants in the last 10 years. The Sulloway firm is highly experienced in the defense of hospitals and doctors in medical malpractice cases. Attorney Hutchins was assisted by Attorney Donna-Marie Cote of Manchester during the trial. Three nurses testified during the trial, as did Dr. Joseph Bergman, head of the mental health department at Cheshire Medical Center. Each side produced testimony from two expert witnesses. The plaintiff along with his parents testified, as did the plaintiff's treating psychiatrist from the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester. The perpetrator did not testify at the trial.
It is winter in New Hampshire. Roads can be covered with snow and ice. When this happens, we witness what can often be a dramatic increase in winter related automobile accidents. The question may be if you sustain a personal injury, do I have a case? Just because you are struck in your motor vehicle and are injured, does not mean that you automatically have a case. It is necessary to prove that the person who hit you was legally at fault. This can be complicated by slippery roads, allowing the other driver to claim that his or her loss of control and the resulting accident was caused by the slippery conditions, and not negligence. In these cases, it is critically important to make sure the police are called to investigate the accident, and if you noticed driving on the part of the other driver that was negligent but not winter related, i.e., speeding, texting, swerving, etc., make sure the police officer is aware of that. Make sure your insurance company is aware of that. Take photos of the tire marks in the snow if possible. There is a strong chance that if you do not develop your case early and properly, you could lose due to the "slippery road" defense. If in doubt, contact a New Hampshire personal injury lawyer to assist you as early in the process as possible.