N.H.: Are higher damage caps for wrongful death claims in the future?

May 8, 2024

As S.B.462 is set to be considered by the House for a vote this Thursday, it’s important for association members to recognize its potential impact on our industry. The bill, which emerged from the House Judiciary Committee with a 11-9 recommendation to pass without amendments, aims to significantly increase the cap on damages for wrongful death loss of consortium claims. If passed, this change, affecting claims the loss of a spouse, parent or child, could go into effect beginning Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2025.

What does S.B.462 propose?

The bill would increase the maximum amount of damages that can be awarded to a surviving spouse for the loss of comfort, society, and companionship from $150,000 to $500,000. For a minor child or parents who lose a minor child, the cap would rise from $50,000 to $300,000 per claimant. The bill also outlines the proportional reductions in damages if the decedent or the surviving spouse is found to be at fault for any part of the loss.

Industry concerns

S.B.462 has faced significant opposition from a wide range of business, health care, and insurance groups, including your very own association. Key concerns centered on the potential for increased insurance claims, heighted litigation and larger jury verdicts and settlements.

PIANH has joined other critics, such as the Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire in signing on to a letter opposing this legislation. PIANH remains concerned that this legislation could substantially impact state and local economies, drive up insurance premiums for consumers and businesses, and deter health care professionals from practicing in New Hampshire due to higher liability risks.

Potential economic impact

Data from other states, like New York, indicate that removing caps on damages can lead to increased insurance costs. According to an actuarial analysis by Milliman Inc., of similar wrongful death legislation in New York (S.74-A/A.6770 of 2022), which was ultimately vetoed by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, the analysis suggested that if that bill were to become law, medical professional liability costs could increase by 40% or more. This cost increase could put even more of a strain on New Hampshire’s already understaffed health care workforce and increase operating costs for businesses across multiple industries.


Advocates from the New Hampshire Association for Justice, an organization for trial lawyers, contend that S.B.462 would enhance the compensation awarded to families affected by tragic losses significantly.

They counter the American Tort Reform’s warnings that abolishing these caps could lead to “nuclear verdicts,” or exorbitant multimillion-dollar awards. They emphasize that such large verdicts are notably infrequent in New Hampshire, which is currently the only state in New England that caps loss of consortium awards below $1 million.

PIA will continue to monitor S.B.462 as it continues through the legislative process.

Theophilus Alexander
PIA Northeast | + posts

Theophilus W. Alexander joined PIA Northeast as a government & industry affairs specialist for the Government & Industry Affairs Department in 2023. Prior to joining PIA, Theo had served in both houses of the New York State Legislature. Previously, he worked as a legislative analyst for Hon. New York State Sen. Samra G. Brouk, D-55, and he served at the New York State Assembly, as a policy analyst with New York Assembly Program & Counsel. Theo received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics from Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y.

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