New Hampshire Medical Malpractice Laws & Statutory Rules

Learn the basics of New Hampshire medical malpractice law, including the elements of a claim, the filing deadline, and more.

By , MSLIS · Long Island University
Updated by Dan Ray, Attorney · University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law

If you've been injured by a New Hampshire health care provider's negligence, you might be thinking about pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit. And you're probably wondering how the state's medical malpractice laws could affect your case. In this article, we'll provide an overview of some of New Hampshire's important medical malpractice laws, including:

  • the deadline for getting a medical malpractice lawsuit filed in New Hampshire court
  • the elements of a New Hampshire medical malpractice claim, and
  • the state's rules on the damages you can receive if your claim succeeds.

New Hampshire's Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

All states have time limits, set by laws called "statutes of limitations," for filing lawsuits in court. There are different deadlines for different types of cases, but these laws are always strictly enforced. If you miss the filing deadline and try to file your lawsuit anyway, the court will almost certainly dismiss the case. That's why it's so important to make sure you get your case filed within the time allowed by the statute.

New Hampshire used to have a specific statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. (See N.H. Rev. Stat. § 507-C:4 (2024).) But the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional. (Carson v. Maurer, Inc., 424 A.2d 825 (N.H. 1980).) New Hampshire hasn't removed this statute from its statutory code, but it's no longer in force.

Today, New Hampshire's general statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits applies to medical malpractice claims. (See N.H. Rev. Stat. § 508:4 (2024).) A plaintiff (the person filing a lawsuit) has three years to get their malpractice case filed in court. In most cases, the clock starts running on the date of the malpractice.

What happens if you don't discover the malpractice (and couldn't have discovered it, using reasonable care) in time to meet the general three year deadline? New Hampshire follows the "discovery rule." This rule gives you three years from the date you discovered or should have discovered the malpractice to sue. Note that if you rely on the discovery rule when filing your lawsuit, you must prove that you couldn't have found out about the malpractice before you did.

Elements of a New Hampshire Medical Malpractice Claim

N.H. Rev. Stat. § 507-E:2 (2024) spells out the requirements for a medical malpractice claim. 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, also known as medical negligence, is simply a failure to practice according to the standard of care. When your doctor's care doesn't meet the standard of care—when it's substandard—that's medical malpractice.
  • You suffered an injury. You must prove that you're 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.

To prove each element, you'll need expert witness testimony. Under New Hampshire's expert witness rules, your expert must have 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 Pretrial Screening of Malpractice Claims

New Hampshire used to require that all medical malpractice claims be reviewed by a screening panel shortly after a lawsuit was filed. (See N.H. Rev. Stat. Ch 519-B (2024).) Screening was intended to 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.

Long story short: There's no statutory cap on the damages you can recover in a medical malpractice case. You can collect both special and general damages, without limitation, in whatever amounts you're able to prove.

Next Steps

Because medical malpractice claims are easily among the most complex and difficult of all personal injury claims, you'll want experienced legal counsel on your side. You can bet that the doctor, hospital, or other health care provider you're suing will be represented by an army of lawyers and insurance adjusters. To make it a fair fight, hire a seasoned malpractice attorney to guide you through the process.

If you're ready to move forward with your New Hampshire medical malpractice claim, here's how to find a lawyer who's right for you.

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