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Drivers owe a duty to their passengers to prevent car accidents

New Hampshire law provides that one who suffers personal injury due to the negligence of another deserves to be compensated for those injuries by the careless tortfeasor. There must generally first be a legal duty owed by the careless person to the injured person to get the benefit of the rule. The rules of negligence generally govern the award of personal injury compensation to victims of car accidents.

For example, the operator of a motor vehicle owes a duty not only to other vehicle operators, passengers and pedestrians who are on the roadways but also to any passengers in that operator's own vehicle. In a recent incident, an 18-year-old woman died when the car in which she was riding as a passenger went off the road and crashed in Ossipee. It hit multiple trees and rolled over before coming to a stop.

The legal duty by the vehicle's operator to the passenger is clear under these circumstances. Here, the operator was a 20-year-old male who was himself seriously injured in the crash. There are no hard facts available to determine the specific reasons why or how the man lost control of his vehicle. However, police are continuing to investigate.

The New Hampshire authorities stated that alcohol and speed may have been factors in causing the crash. They may have gathered such information from forensic testing at the scene or from witness statements. In investigating car accidents, it is necessary to wait for the police report to determine fault, but it is clear under these circumstances that the driver has failed in his duty to use due care to protect the safety of his passenger. Having fallen below the required minimum standard of care, the driver will likely be responsible for compensating the estate of the deceased passenger.

Source: whdh.com, "Massachusetts woman dies in New Hampshire crash.", June 3, 2017

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