New Hampshire Medical Malpractice Laws

If you're thinking of filing a New Hampshire medical malpractice lawsuit, here are the state laws that could have a big impact on your case.

By , J.D. University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated by Dan Ray, Attorney University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law
Updated 1/08/2024

If you're thinking about filing a medical malpractice case in New Hampshire, you'll want to have a basic understanding of what New Hampshire law requires. The bad news is that medical malpractice cases—in New Hampshire and elsewhere—are among the most complicated and difficult of all personal injury lawsuits. The good news is that, compared to most other states, New Hampshire law has fewer roadblocks to bringing a malpractice case in court.

After walking you through New Hampshire's medical malpractice statute of limitations, we'll explain the basic elements of a New Hampshire medical malpractice claim.

New Hampshire's Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is a law that puts a deadline on filing a lawsuit in court. The plaintiff (the party bringing the lawsuit) must, as a general rule, file suit before the limitation period expires. Every state enacts its own statutes of limitations. Different kinds of cases can have different filing deadlines.

New Hampshire's Malpractice Statute of Limitations Declared Invalid

Like many states, New Hampshire had a specific statute of limitations that applied to medical malpractice lawsuits. But the New Hampshire Supreme Court, in a case called Carson v. Maurer, 424 A.2d 825 (N.H. 1980), found that the law violated New Hampshire's state constitution. Although the statute can still be found in the New Hampshire code (see N.H. Rev. Stat. § 507-C:4 (2024)), it's no longer enforced.

New Hampshire's General Personal Injury Statute of Limitations Applies

New Hampshire's general personal injury statute of limitations now applies to medical malpractice lawsuits. Found at N.H. Rev. Stat. § 508:4 (2024), the statute gives you three years to file your case in court. In most cases, the statute of limitations clock starts to run on the date of the malpractice.

What happens if you didn't discover your injury (and couldn't have discovered it, using reasonable care) on the date the malpractice happened? In that event, the statute gives you three years from the date you discover or should have discovered the malpractice to file suit. Keep in mind that the burden will be on you to prove that you didn't discover (and couldn't have discovered) your injury in time to file within three years from the date the malpractice happened.

Filing After the Deadline Expires

Absent an exception that gives you more time to file, the statute of limitations is a claim killer. If you file after the deadline, the defendant (the party you're suing) will ask the court to dismiss the case, and the court will have no choice but to grant that request. Stated a bit differently, if you miss the deadline, you'll lose the right to seek compensation for your malpractice injuries.

Elements of a New Hampshire Medical Malpractice Claim

New Hampshire law spells out the requirements for a medical malpractice claim. You'll need expert medical witness testimony to prove each of these elements. If any element is missing, your claim will fail.

  • The standard of care. The standard of care describes how careful your doctor should have been while caring for you. Ask yourself this question: What would a reasonably careful doctor in the community—one with similar education and training as my doctor—have done in this situation? The answer to that question, or something close to it, describes the applicable standard of care.
  • Your doctor's care was substandard. Medical malpractice is simply a failure to practice according to the standard of care. Stated differently, when your doctor's care is substandard, that's medical malpractice. Proving substandard care is essential to a viable medical malpractice claim, but you still need to prove the remaining two elements.
  • You suffered an injury. How are you worse off now than you were before your doctor's substandard care? Do you have an injury or condition you didn't have before? Did your original injury or condition get worse? Without an injury, you don't have a viable malpractice claim.
  • Your injury was caused by the doctor's substandard care. This element—lawyers and judges call it "causation"—ties all the other elements together. Many times, causation will be clear. When causation is contested, it can sink your claim entirely.

(See N.H. Rev. Stat. § 507-E:2 (2024).)

New Hampshire's expert witness rules describe the credentials your expert must have to be allowed to testify in court. Generally speaking, that means having similar education and training, including board certification, as the doctor you're suing. The judge will decide whether your expert meets the state's requirements.

No More Screening of Malpractice Claims

New Hampshire used to require that all medical malpractice claims had to be reviewed by a screening panel shortly after the case was filed in court. (See N.H. Rev. Stat. Ch 519-B (2024).) Screening was intended to quickly separate legitimate from frivolous claims and to discourage pursuit of claims that lacked merit.

Critics of the law answered that instead of deterring frivolous claims, the law simply made legitimate malpractice claims more difficult and expensive to litigate. After several years of experience with the law, New Hampshire lawmakers repealed the pretrial screening requirement, effective July 1, 2023.

No Medical Malpractice Damages Cap in New Hampshire

Many states have put a limit, or a "cap," on the amount of compensation (what the law calls "damages") a plaintiff can receive in a medical malpractice case. In most states with damage caps, the damages you can collect are limited to the cap amount—regardless of how serious or disabling your injuries might be.

New Hampshire used to have a medical malpractice damages cap. Like the state's former malpractice statute of limitations, the cap statute can still be found in the New Hampshire code. (See N.H. Rev. Stat. § 507-C:7 (2024).) But in the same decision that found the malpractice statute of limitations violated the state constitution (discussed above), the New Hampshire Supreme Court declared the damage cap law unconstitutional, too. The medical malpractice cap statute is no longer enforced.

New Hampshire also used to have a damage cap on all other personal injury cases. (See N.H. Rev. Stat. § 508:4-d (2024).) In a decision called Brannigan v. Usitalo, 587 A.2d 1232 (N.H. 1991), the state supreme court found that this cap statute also violated New Hampshire's constitution. Long story short: Presently, there's no statutory limit on the damages you can collect in a medical malpractice case.

Get Help With Your New Hampshire Medical Malpractice Claim

Medical malpractice cases are among the most difficult of all personal injury claims. Many lawyers who handle other kinds of personal injury cases won't touch malpractice suits. If you think you've got a New Hampshire medical malpractice case, you should contact an experienced malpractice attorney right away.

Here's how to find a medical malpractice lawyer in your area who's right for you and your case.

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