If you live in Idaho and may have a valid medical malpractice case, there are a few state laws that you need to know about. Here you’ll find a discussion of the “statute of limitations” for starting a medical malpractice case in Idaho, limits on a medical malpractice damage award in the state, and more.
Quick Note on Medical Malpractice Statutes of Limitations and Award Limits
The “statute of limitations” is the legal term for the amount of time that the person suing (the plaintiff) has to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a health care provider.
Besides the main time limit for filing the case (which we'll discuss) there are often special requirements a plaintiff has to fulfill before he or she can sue for medical malpractice. Failure to take the proper steps could postpone when the suit can be filed and cause the plaintiff to miss the statute of limitations deadline. Finally, it can often be difficult to determine when the clock started running and what the deadline actually is.
Medical malpractice damage awards (how much money an injured plaintiff can receive in a lawsuit, in other words) are also limited or “capped” in some states. Both the strict statute of limitations and the damage caps are the result of states’ efforts to lower the cost of medical malpractice liability insurance for health care providers.
The rules affecting all of these issues in Idaho are discussed below.
Basic Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations in Idaho is Two Years
In Idaho, you must start the lawsuit within two years of when the malpractice occurred. In other words, if you file your medical malpractice lawsuit more than two years after the occurrence of the act that allegedly amounted to malpractice, your case will be thrown out by the court.
The only exceptions are for foreign objects left in the patient or the health care provider’s fraudulent concealment of the malpractice, i.e. intentionally deceiving you so you don’t discover the malpractice. In either of those events, you have one year from when you finally discover the object or the deception (or from when you should reasonably have discovered them) to sue.
If someone is under 18 years of age or is mentally disabled, the statute of limitations is “tolled”, i.e. put on pause, until the person reaches 18 or regains their mental capacities. However, regardless of the plaintiff’s age or mental state, the statute of limitations will not be paused for more than six years.
The basic laws for Idaho's medical malpractice statute of limitations can be found at Idaho Code Ann. § 5-219(2).
Effect of Pre-Suit Requirements on the Statute of Limitations
In Idaho, a plaintiff is required to file the case with a pre-trial screening panel. However, the plaintiff can start the lawsuit before filing the case with the pre-trial screening panel and in that way meet the statute of limitations deadline.
In other words, your case won’t be thrown out if you don’t take care of the pre-trial screening requirements before you start the lawsuit. If you do start the pre-trial screening process before suing, the running of the statute of limitations will be tolled (paused) while the proceedings are underway and for thirty days after the proceedings have concluded. After that period is over, you need to start your case in court before the deadline expires to avoid having your case permanently thrown out.
Idaho Caps Non-Economic Damages at $400,000 in Med Mal Cases
A plaintiff in Idaho cannot collect more than $400,000 in non-economic damages in a medical malpractice case. Non-economic damages are “subjective” damages like physical pain and suffering and emotional harm. Other “concrete” damages like medical bills are not capped.
The damage limit applies to the total amount the plaintiff can collect, regardless of the number of defendants. The jury cannot be told about the damage limitation. The damage cap does not apply if the defendant acted recklessly or willfully or if the acts would be a felony under criminal law. Punitive damages, which are somewhat rare in medical malpractice cases, are limited to $250,000.
The basic laws for Idaho Medical Malpractice Damage Caps can be found starting at Idaho Code Ann. § 6-1603.