What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in New Hampshire?
Before we get into the specifics of New Hampshire’s law, let’s take a step back and explain that a “statute of limitations” is a law that puts a time limit on a prospective plaintiff’s right to go to court and file a civil lawsuit after suffering some type of harm. These deadlines vary depending on the kind of case being filed.
Now, onto the law in New Hampshire. Section 508:4 of the New Hampshire Revised Statutes contains a “catch-all” three-year statute of limitations that applies to most “personal actions,” which means it covers lawsuits arising from a vehicle accident.
So, that means if anyone was injured in the crash -- including a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian -- or had their vehicle or other personal property damaged, they must get their lawsuit filed against any potential defendant within three years. For these injury and property damage cases, the three-year “clock” starts running on the date of the accident.
If someone died as a result of the car accident, and their family member or a representative of the estate wants to file a wrongful death claim against the person responsible for the crash, the same three-year deadline applies, but the “clock” starts running on the day of the accident victim’s death (which could be later than the date of the accident itself). (Learn more about New Hampshire Wrongful Death Lawsuits.)
Keep in mind that regardless of the basis of the case -- whether it’s an injury, a death, or just damage to a vehicle -- the success of any car accident lawsuit will depend on your ability to prove that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of the crash. Learn more about Proving Fault for a Car Accident.
Having read all of this, you may be wondering what happens if you try to file your lawsuit after the statute of limitations deadline has already passed. In that situation, the defendant is sure to ask the court to dismiss the case, and the court is very likely to agree that a dismissal is appropriate.
Finally, you always want to make sure you have plenty of time to file a lawsuit, even if you’re pretty sure you’ll reach a car accident settlement. If you have all of your options open -- and the other side knows it -- you’ll have more leverage during settlement talks. So if the three-year statute of limitations deadline is approaching, it may be time to talk with an experienced New Hampshire car accident attorney.
by: David Goguen, J.D.