If you think you might have a medical malpractice lawsuit in Indiana, it helps to get familiar with the different state laws that might affect your case. In this article, you’ll find a discussion of the "statute of limitations" deadline for starting a medical malpractice case in Indiana, the limits on medical malpractice damage awards in the state, and more.
A "statute of limitations" is a law that sets a limit on the amount of time that can pass before an injured patient must get their medical malpractice lawsuit filed against a health care provider. Besides compliance with these deadlines, there are often other procedural obligations that a medical malpractice plaintiff must fulfill before the case can proceed in court.
Medical malpractice damage awards -- compensation that the injured patient can receive in a lawsuit, in other words -- are also limited or "capped" in many states.
Let's look at the details of these rules in Indiana.
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 reasonably have discovered the symptoms of medical malpractice, in the eyes of the law.
If the injured patient was a child younger than six years old when the medical malpractice occurred, the parents or other guardians have until the child's eighth birthday to sue for medical malpractice.
The basic laws for Indiana Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations can be found at Indiana Code sections 34-18-7-1 and 34-18-7-2.
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 medical malpractice case is over ("barred" in legalese).
For civil lawsuits based on medical malpractice that occurred prior to July 1, 2017, a medical malpractice plaintiff in Indiana cannot recover more than $1,250,000 in total damages. The liable health care provider must provide the first $250,000 of that amount. The Indiana Patient Compensation Fund provides the rest, up to $1,000,000. These limits are currently set to increase as follows:
(Note: If the malpractice occurred prior to July 1, 1999, the caps are lower than what's listed above).
The rules limiting patient compensation in an Indiana medical malpractice case are more extensive (and more complicated) than what we've covered here. You can find the full text of these laws at Indiana Code 34-18-14. And of course, for advice that's tailored to your situation, talk to an experienced Indiana medical malpractice lawyer.