In the days and weeks following injuries, individuals who have suffered accidents as the result of another party’s negligence may face busy schedules filled with medical appointments, police reports, insurance claims, and consultations. During this period, it may seem difficult to consider potential legal options and file personal injury claims. However, it is important to act with a certain degree of expediency during this initial period, as there are legal time limits that may eventually prevent injury victims from pursuing compensation. Many victims of accident injuries ask the same question: “How long after an accident can you claim an injury?” Determining a clear answer is important, as this knowledge can give individuals recovering from an injury a better sense of how much time they have to heal both physically and mentally before tackling the legal process ahead. The truth is that this time limit may vary depending on the exact circumstances of each accident. To determine an accurate sense of the time limits ahead, it makes sense to discuss these specific circumstances with an experienced personal injury attorney in New Hampshire. To get started, call (603) 707-4800 and schedule your personalized consultation with Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC.
The Importance of Getting Quick Medical Attention for Injuries
While there is no specific requirement to receive medical attention within a specific amount of time, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible after an injury. Delays can lead to future legal issues as plaintiffs pursue compensation, in addition to the health problems that may be exacerbated by delaying care.
Both insurers and defendants may ask difficult questions about why plaintiffs waited an extended period before seeing a doctor. If a plaintiff delays treatment, this may imply to an insurance company or to a court that the injury was not particularly serious. If a plaintiff fails to get medical treatment altogether, they will likely lack the necessary medical records to establish the extent of their injuries. Delays may also lead to allegations that the injuries were pre-existing, or caused by unrelated accidents. Patients may delay or avoid treatment for a number of reasons:
- Financial concerns
- Memory loss
- Psychological trauma
- Distrust of healthcare providers
- Misplaced reliance on alternative medicine
- The decision to “tough it out” instead of seeing a doctor
The Statute of Limitations: The Time Limit for Injury Claims
There are statutes of limitations associated with virtually every type of legal action imaginable, and personal injury claims are no exception. The statute of limitations in New Hampshire clearly lays out legal timelines associated with injury claims. The general concept is simple: If the statute of limitations expires, plaintiffs will lose the ability to file lawsuits and pursue compensation. There may be slightly different statutes associated with each type of injury:
Most Personal Injury Claims Have a Three-Year Statute of Limitations
In New Hampshire, most injuries fall under a three-year statute of limitations. This means that plaintiffs have three years to file their injury lawsuits after most accidents. These injuries might include:
- Slips and falls
- Auto accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bike accidents
- Product liability
- Negligent security
- Dog bites
- Medical malpractice
While many states have different statutes of limitations that apply specifically to medical malpractice cases, New Hampshire does not.
Time Limits Are Shorter When Filing Injury Claims Against the Government
An additional 180-day time limit applies when individuals are filing personal injury claims against a government agency – and plaintiffs must file their formal claims in the county where the injury occurred within this 6-month period. In practice, this gives injured individuals much less time to work with law firms such as Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC in order to take legal action.
Injured Workers Only Have Two Years To File Claims
Finally, injured workers in New Hampshire who wish to file workers’ compensation claims have a time limit of just two years. According to the New Hampshire Department of Labor, the employee must also inform their employer of the injury within two years in order to make a claim.
Acceptable Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
In certain situations, injured parties may have the ability to file claims even after the statute of limitations has expired. Here are some examples of these exceptions:
If a plaintiff becomes incapacitated and is not able to file a claim, they may still take action after recovering from this incapacitation. For example, an individual may find themselves in a medically induced coma after an auto accident. They may then spend the next 10 years in a comatose state before regaining consciousness. In this situation, the three-year time limit set forth by the statute of limitations would not begin “counting” until after the individual regains consciousness. The same logic applies to many other forms of incapacitation.
The New Hampshire government may pass legislation to create “lookback windows” that allow exceptions to the time limit for filing claims under certain tightly delineated circumstances. An obvious example includes child abuse – particularly in the context of adult survivors of abuse by clergy or others who may have operated in an educational or other authoritative capacity with respect to children during their minority. In many cases, adults use these lookback windows to sue organizations for allowing abuse to occur during their childhood.
Some injuries cause memory loss, and plaintiffs may genuinely have no recollection of their accidents. These issues often occur after traumatic head injuries (TBIs). According to the National Institutes of Health: “Memory loss is a common complaint following traumatic brain injury.” If plaintiffs recover these lost memories through therapy or the simple passage of time, they may have the ability to file claims even after the expiry of statutes of limitations.
Technically speaking, the time limit associated with the statute of limitations only begins after plaintiffs become aware of their injuries – and not necessarily at the date of the injury itself. This is an important distinction, and it means that a late diagnosis could potentially allow plaintiffs to file even after the usual time limit has passed. A telling example of this circumstance is provided in the case of asbestos exposure, which may eventually lead to a mesothelioma diagnosis decades after the initial incident.
Speak With a Personal Injury Lawyer in New Hampshire
There are many factors that may affect timelines associated with personal injury claims in New Hampshire. Each accident is slightly different. While internet research serves as a positive first step, a consultation with an attorney may provide more accurate guidance and information based on each specific accident. Consider calling (603) 707-4800 to discuss this subject further with Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC. Injury victims can ask various questions during these discussions, including: “How long after an accident can you claim an injury?” With more accurate information about the circumstances of their injuries, individuals who have suffered harm as a result of someone else’s negligence can move forward with greater confidence.