What is the Property Damage Statute of Limitations in New Hampshire?

Comply with New Hampshire's statute of limitations, or you'll likely lose your right to compensation for your damaged or destroyed property.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

If someone else's negligent or intentional action has caused damage to your property in New Hampshire, you could have a viable property damage claim or lawsuit, which means you're entitled to compensation for your losses. If you're in this situation, it's important to understand New Hampshire's statute of limitations for property damage cases.

What Is a "Statute of Limitations"?

A "statute of limitations" is a law that sets a limit on how much time can pass between:

  • the occurrence of some kind of wrongful conduct that causes someone harm (physical, financial, or otherwise), and
  • the date on which that person must file a lawsuit asking a court for a legal remedy for the wrongdoing.

Read on for the details of the property damage statute of limitations in New Hampshire, circumstances that could serve to extend the deadline, and more.

What's the Property Damage Lawsuit Filing Deadline In New Hampshire?

In New Hampshire, the statute of limitations filing deadline is the same whether your potential lawsuit involves damage to:

  • real property (your house, some other building, or your land) or
  • personal property (including vehicle damage).

Specifically, New Hampshire Statutes section 508:4 sets something of a catch-all three year filing deadline for "all personal actions," and property damage lawsuits fall under this category.

So, a vehicle damage claim after a car accident must be brought within three years in New Hampshire. The same goes for a lawsuit by a homeowner who alleges that physical damage to the exterior of his/her house was caused by someone else's negligence.

Learn more about how property damage claims work.

When Does the Statute of Limitations "Clock" Start In New Hampshire?

The three-year "clock" typically starts running on the day of the incident that led to the damage, although section 508:4 specifically gives plaintiffs a little leeway "when the injury and its causal relationship" to the defendant's actions "were not discovered and could not reasonably have been discovered at the time."

So, if the property damage isn't apparent right away, or if it's not initially obvious that someone else caused the damage, there might be a valid question as to when the three-year clock should start for purposes of the statute of limitations.

What If I Miss the Statute of Limitations Filing Deadline In New Hampshire?

If you try to file your New Hampshire property damage lawsuit after the applicable time limit has passed, you can count on the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) filing a motion with the court, asking that the case be dismissed.

The court is certain to grant the dismissal unless rare circumstances make an extension of the deadline appropriate (more on these rules later). So it's crucial to pay attention to (and comply with) the New Hampshire statute of limitations for property damage cases, even if you're fairly certain you'll be able to resolve the situation without resorting to a lawsuit.

Can I Extend the Lawsuit-Filing Deadline In New Hampshire?

For most kinds of civil lawsuits in New Hampshire, including cases over property damage, a number of situations could serve to effectively extend the lawsuit filing deadline set by the statute of limitations.

When the Property Owner Is Under a "Legal Disability"

Special rules usually apply if, at the time the property damage occurs, the property owner:

  • is an infant ( that means under the age of 18, in the eyes of the law in New Hampshire), or
  • has been declared "a mentally incompetent person" by a court or other authority.

These are considered "legal disabilities" by the New Hampshire civil courts, and once the period of legal disability ends—meaning the property owner turns 18, or is declared legally competent—they'll usually have two years to get their lawsuit filed, according to New Hampshire Statutes section 508:8.

When the Defendant Is "Absent From and Residing Out of" New Hampshire

When the person who's alleged to have caused the property damage is "absent from and residing out of the state" of New Hampshire before a lawsuit can be filed against them, the period of absence probably won't be counted as part of the time limit for filing suit. This rule can be found at New Hampshire Statutes section 508:9.

Other circumstances may affect the New Hampshire statute of limitations and how the time window might be calculated for a potential property damage lawsuit. Do a little research of your own or talk with an experienced New Hampshire attorney for more details about how the law might apply to your situation.

Where Do I File a Property Damage Lawsuit In New Hampshire?

The answer here mostly depends on how much compensation ("damages" in the language of the law) you'll be seeking from the person you're suing:

In either scenario, you'll likely file your lawsuit in the New Hampshire county where the person you're suing lives, or where the property damage occurred.

Can I File a Property Damage Case In New Hampshire Small Claims Court?

Yes. If you're not asking for more than $10,000 from the person who damaged or destroyed your property, small claims court might be a good option for your case. A few things to note here:

  • Any New Hampshire small claims case involving more than $5,000 is subject to mandatory mediation.
  • The New Hampshire statute of limitations deadline we've discussed here also applies to small claims cases.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a New Hampshire Property Damage Claim?

Even if you're filing a lawsuit, you don't necessarily need a lawyer to handle your property damage case. Paying for an attorney at this stage might not be worth it (especially if you're filing in small claims court), and it can be challenging to find an attorney who's willing to take a run-of-the-mill property damage case.

But a New Hampshire lawyer's help might be crucial if personal injury or some other legal issue overlaps with your property damage. A lawyer might also agree to take that kind of "hybrid" case on a contingency fee basis, meaning you won't pay for the lawyer's services unless you receive a settlement or court award. Get tips on finding the right lawyer for you and your case.

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