If you think you might have a medical malpractice case in Indiana, you're probably wondering about the different state laws that might affect your case. In this article, you’ll find a discussion of the “statute of limitations” for starting a medical malpractice case in Indiana, and the limits on medical malpractice damage awards in the state.
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. Medical malpractice cases have some of the shortest statute of limitation rules of any kind of lawsuit. To make matters more complicated, 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.
The rules affecting all of these issues in Indiana are discussed below.
The Basic Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations in Indiana is Two Years
In Indiana, you must start the lawsuit within two years of when the medical malpractice was committed. That means that the two-year clock starts running when the health care provider does -- or neglects to do -- something that causes a medical injury. If the act causes an injury that inherently doesn’t show up for a long time, the two-year clock begins to run when you discover symptoms of a medical malpractice injury, or when you should havediscovered the symptoms of medical malpractice. In other words, you can’t put off having something checked out – the clock starts when the symptoms start.
If the injured person was younger than six years old when the medical malpractice occurred, the parents or other guardians have until the person turns eight to sue for medical malpractice.
The basic laws for Indiana Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations can be found at Ind. Code. Ann. § 34-18-7-1 and § 34-18-7-2.
The Effect of Pre-Suit Requirements on the Statute of Limitations
In Indiana, if you are suing for less than $15,000, there are no pre-suit requirements, i.e. the first act in the medical malpractice case timeline is filing the initial complaint with the court. If the complaint is filed before the statute of limitations deadline, the case can proceed.
If the plaintiff is suing for more than $15,000, the complaint must be submitted to a medical malpractice review panel before it can proceed to court. The statute of limitations is “tolled”, meaning the clock temporarily stops running, for 90 days after the plaintiff receives an opinion from the review panel. For example, if the plaintiff had one day left to sue a doctor when he submitted a complaint to the review panel, the statute of limitations will stop while the panel proceedings are underway and the plaintiff will have 91 days to sue the doctor in court after the review panel gives him an opinion.
If you realize your case is worth more than $15,000 within two years of first suing, you can drop the case and start it over again with the review panel. If that happens, you get an extra 180 days on top of the original two-year statute of limitations.
If you should have filed your complaint with the review panel, but instead file it in court first, the statute of limitations continues to run until you correct your mistake and comply with the review panel filing rules. That means you might think you filed your complaint in court on time, but if the statute of limitations passes before you find out you should have filed with the review panel first, your case medical malpractice case is over with (“barred” in legalese).
Indiana Medical Malpractice Damage Caps
An injured medical malpractice plaintiff in Indiana cannot recover more than $1,250,000 total. The liable medical provider must provide the first $250,000. The Indiana Patient Compensation Fund provides the rest, up to $1,000,000. A medical provider cannot be required to pay $750,000 total in medical malpractice damages in a year. If the doctor you’re suing has already paid out $750,000 in damages in other cases that year, your recovery is limited to $1,000,000 from the Patient Compensation Fund. Note that the limits are lower for cases where the act of malpractice occurred before 1999.
The basic law for Indiana Medical Malpractice Damage Caps can be found at Ind. Code. Ann. § 34-18-14-3.