Idaho Medical Malpractice Laws & Statutory Rules

An introduction to the laws and statutory rules governing medical negligence claims in Idaho.

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If you live in Idaho and are thinking of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, there are a few state laws that you need to know about. These cases are often extremely complicated, and you'll most likely need the help of an experienced medical malpractice attorney, but it's important to understand the basics of the process. This article will discuss some of those basics, including:

  • the time limits on starting a medical malpractice lawsuit in Idaho
  • the pre-trial screening requirement for medical malpractice cases, and
  • the state's caps on damage awards in successful claims.

Time Limits for Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Idaho

Like all states, Idaho has a law called a "statute of limitations" that sets the amount of time a plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) has to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a health care provider (the defendant). In Idaho, you generally have two years to file a medical malpractice claim, and, in most cases, the clock starts running on the date when the malpractice occurred. In other words, if you file your medical malpractice lawsuit more than two years after the allegedly negligent act happened, your case will almost certainly be thrown out by the court and you will have lost the opportunity to get compensated for your injuries.

However, there are a few exceptions to the standard two-year statute of limitations. Under what's called the "discovery rule," if the lawsuit is based on a foreign object left in the patient's body or if the health care provider "fraudulently and wrongfully concealed" the malpractice, you either have one year from when you finally discover (or should reasonably have discovered) the object or the deception or the standard two-year period, whichever is later, to file the claim.

And if the injured patient is younger than 18 years of age or is mentally disabled when the malpractice occurs, the statute of limitations is "tolled" (or paused) until the person turns 18 or regains their mental capacities. Regardless of the plaintiff's age or mental state, though, the statute of limitations cannot be paused for more than six years.

(Idaho Code §§ 5-219(4), 5-230 (2022).)

The Prelitigation Screening Process in Idaho Medical Malpractice Cases

In Idaho, a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case against a physician, surgeon, or "licensed acute care general hospital" is first required to submit the claim to a "prelitigation screening" panel administered by the Idaho Board of Medicine. The purpose of the panel is to review the case and decide whether it has merit. The proceedings are informal and the panel's decision is not binding, but prelitigation screening is required before the medical malpractice lawsuit can proceed to court.

The screening process typically works like this:

  • The potential plaintiff files an application with the panel.
  • The panel will gather evidence and hear witness testimony.
  • The panel will decide whether the case is "frivolous, meritorious or of any other particular description" and inform the parties involved. (If the panel members decide that the claim has merit and that the injured patient deserves compensation and then unanimously agree on an amount, the panel can recommend a settlement—although this recommendation, too, is non-binding.)

The panel has 90 days from the start of the proceedings to render a decision. If the panel does not issue a decision in the case after 90 days, the panel must conclude the proceedings and the panelists may "informally, by written communication" inform the parties of their "impressions and conclusions." Or the parties can agree to extend the proceedings for an additional 30 days.

Note that the statute of limitations clock is paused while the claim is pending before the panel and for 30 days afterward.

(Idaho Code §§ 6-1001 to 6-1014 (2022).)

Idaho's Medical Malpractice Damage Caps

Idaho law "caps" or limits noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. Noneconomic damages are "subjective" damages that are hard to quantify, such as pain and suffering and emotional harm. Noneconomic damages in Idaho are presently capped at just over $399,400, but that amount is adjusted each year on July 1. Current damage caps are posted on the Idaho Industrial Commission's website.

The damage limit applies to the total amount of noneconomic damages the plaintiff can collect, regardless of the number of defendant health care providers. However, the damage cap does not apply if the defendant's conduct was "reckless or willful," or if the act would be a felony under criminal law.

Note that economic damages, such as compensation for lost wages and the costs of past or future medical care, are not affected by the damage cap. There are no limits on the amount of economic damages that can be awarded in an Idaho medical malpractice case.

(Idaho Code § 6-1603 (2022).)

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