Idaho Medical Malpractice Laws
Each state has their own set of medical malpractice laws in place, and it is important for patients to understand those laws and how they could affect their case. The following are the basics of the laws in Idaho.
Medical Malpractice Idaho
Idaho has many laws that regulate what can be claimed as medical malpractice when filing a lawsuit, and what criteria must be met to get compensation for it. It requires an injury, evidence that proves the injury, evidence that proves who caused the injury, and more. Trying to take a medical malpractice case to court without the advice of a medical malpractice lawyer is not advisable. However, not going to court when someone was negligent and caused an injury is unacceptable as well. If someone is facing the consequences of a medical error, the best thing to do is to go to court with the help of legal advice and let the judge decide who is responsible for covering the damages.
How Idaho Explains Medical Malpractice
An injury at the hands or due to the neglect of a health care provider is a form of personal injury case called medical malpractice. This could be due to someone actively making a mistake, such as administering the wrong medication to a patient or inactively making a mistake, such as not listening when a patient asked for help moving, and then the patient fell. All types of malpractice need to be able to meet specific criteria when they go to court, and all claims must be filed within a set amount of time, which is known as the statute of limitations.
Filing a malpractice case in Idaho is just as complicated as it is anywhere in the United States. However, anyone facing an injury needs to understand that Idaho state laws are very specific about what needs to happen and when. The regulations that dictate how a malpractice case must begin need to be adhered to. If they are not, the case could be thrown out of court, obliterating any chance the injured party has of getting compensation for his or her injuries.
Before any type of medical malpractice claim is heard in Idaho, the injured party needs to start a prelitigation screening. This allows a board of panel members, typically doctors, the opportunity to see if there is merit to the case. The results do not determine if the case should move forward or not, but this is the only way to initiate a malpractice case in the state. Also, the results are not binding, but they do give both sides an idea of how much weight a case holds.
What Is the Pre-litigation Process for Malpractice Claims?
When a medical malpractice lawsuit is inevitable, the first step (or at least one of the first steps) is starting a screening process. This needs to be completed prior to the case moving forward in court. This process can be started before or after filing in court, but without this being completed, the lawsuit will stall. Luckily for the injured party, it pauses the time someone has to file until 30 days after the findings are made public from the panel.
In this process, a panel made up of doctors from the Idaho Board of Medicine come together to look over the evidence. Here is what the general process looks like:
- Gathering as much evidence as possible and looking over each piece carefully
- Looking over medical records to see what happened to cause the injury and where there was a lapse in care that harmed someone
- Speaking to witnesses who were around when the injury took place to try and get several perspectives on what happened
- Discussing observations based on what evidence was found and what the statements were from the witnesses
If the group believes that the evidence points to malpractice, the panel can advise the claim to move forward. If the entire panel unanimously agrees on an appropriate amount of compensation, this information can be forwarded along as well. However, since this process is not binding, this does not need to be adhered to. It is simply a proposal that both sides get to see when the process is complete. In many cases, the people who served on the panel are later called as expert witnesses in the case since they are already so intimately familiar with the case.
An Idaho Medical Malpractice Case Requirement Is Expert Witnesses
Only a few states require the use of an expert witness in any malpractice case, and Idaho is one of them. Every malpractice case the Idaho courts see will have at least one witness that is considered an expert, but most have several. This is to help establish the criteria of the case. These witnesses are typically doctors or other medical staff that work in the same general capacity that the accused does. This allows them to have a unique perspective on what type of reasonable care a patient should expect, or should have expected at the time the injury took place. This is a requirement for every personal injury case brought before the court in Idaho because it eliminates wasted time for the court.
The hardest part for most injured parties is finding people who are willing to testify in this type of venue. Most medical professionals struggle with the idea of testifying against someone local, no matter how guilty the professionals believe the accused to be. In these instances, the court will ask for a witness to testify from further away, but this can become a logistical nightmare. It involves setting dates that may require flexibility, travel expenses, and witness fees. Ideally, the injured party and his or her lawyer will want to find someone local that is familiar with personal injury guidelines which can provide this problem with a quick solution.
What Evidence Is Necessary for a Medical Malpractice Case to Move Forward?
When trying to prove a malpractice case, the plaintiff and his or her attorney need to come to court armed with many types of evidence. This needs to include medical records from before the injury until as close to the day they go to court together as possible. This will show the timeline of the injury, what treatment options have been tried, and which medical professionals tried to help the plaintiff. It will also give an idea of what type of treatment may be required in the long term to get the injury to heal if possible.
The plaintiff should also try to have as many written statements on the injury as possible. This can include witness statements from those who witnessed the injury taking place, statements that are written up by any medical staff who helped with the injured person’s recovery since the injury event took place, or even people who were around the day the injury happened who could testify to the accused’s mood and temperament at the time.
During the investigation, it may come to light that there are photos of the injury as it was taking place or immediately after the incident. Videos could be possible as well. If that is the case, then those need to come to court as well. Surveillance footage from the day the injury happened allows the judge and jury to see how the injured party was acting as well as the accused, right around the time of the injury.
What Are the Statutes of Limitations That Apply to Cases of Medical Malpractice?
Idaho has very specific time limits on malpractice cases. From the date the injury took place, the plaintiff has two years to file his or her claim. This is when the injury is obvious. However, in cases where the injury is not immediately obvious, the plaintiff has one year from when the injury became obvious unless it falls within the first year of the original two-year guideline.
The statute of limitations is up to six years in two specific instances. First, if a doctor or other medical professional intentionally hid the injury from the patient, it gives the person more time to file suit. Second, if there was any type of foreign object left behind from a surgical procedure, the person has longer to file suit as well. This is because it can be incredibly different to figure out the problem in a short amount of time, so the injured party should be given sufficient time to discover and rectify the problem. It also allows the injured party to see just how much his or her specific injury impacted their life so that compensation can be properly adjusted.
There are also some more traditional exceptions to the limits in Idaho as well. First, anyone under the age of 18 has the timer paused on any injury sustained as a minor until the day that person turns 18. From there, the two-year waiting period begins. Second, anyone that is considered mentally unfit or disabled has time to be able to discover the injury and then file a claim if he or she so chooses. The two-year timer does not begin for those with mental deficiencies until they are given a clear state of mental health where they have regained enough of their mental capacities to understand the injury.
What Constitutes an Example of Medical Malpractice?
Many different injuries could qualify under malpractice laws. However, they also need to meet court guidelines to qualify the injured party for damages. Four things must be proven about any case of malpractice to qualify in court.. These four things are:
- One – Relationship: There must be some form of working relationship between the person who suffered the injury and the person who is accused of causing the injury.
- Two – Standard of Care: This is the level of reasonable care the injured party or anyone else would expect when seeking medical attention. This is how any medical health care provider would act in the same basic scenario.
- Three – Breach of That Standard: In this instance, the court needs to see how the care the injured party received was below the standard that someone could reasonably expect given the circumstances.
- Four – Connection: The court needs to be able to see how the injury and the accused are connected by being able to place the accused in the right place at the right time to lead to the injury. This is the most pivotal part of any investigation. If this cannot be proven, the case is over.
Now, if the examples of malpractice cannot prove each of those criteria, they are not medical malpractice, and they become unfortunate accidents. Here are some of the more common medical malpractice examples that all have the potential of making it to court:
- Leaving items behind in the surgical site during any surgical procedure
- Medication errors that leave a patient taking the wrong medication or some type of medication that contradicts something already in his or her system
- Being given the wrong dose of medication
- Misdiagnosing or failing to diagnose a patient properly
- Birth injuries where a child or mother was injured
- Administering the wrong type or amount of anesthesia, which could make the patient hard to rouse or make it impossible for him or her to wake up
- Not providing a common treatment for an obvious ailment
- Operating on the right patient, but on the wrong part of his or her body
- Not reading test results properly and treating the patient
- Not ordering the right type of tests for the symptoms the injured party was experiencing
- Ignoring severe changes in vital signs or warning alarms on medical equipment
- Not intubating someone who was obviously in need of assistance breathing
- Harming someone with medical equipment
- Not sitting with the patient and communicating any potential dangers of medications, procedures, or possible treatments and it results in an injury to the patient
Who Can Be Held Liable in Malpractice Cases?
During a medical malpractice investigation or case, many different people can be looked at to see if they were a part of the injury. This allows everyone to know who made the mistake, and those responsible, to pay the price for the damage. Any type of healthcare provider could face a malpractice lawsuit at some point in his or her career. However, some people tend to come to mind first, including but not limited to:
- A doctor
- A nurse
- An anesthesiologist
- A dentist
- A podiatrist
- A chiropractor
- A cosmetic surgeon
- An OB/GYN
- A nutritionist
- A physical therapist
- A midwife
- An orthopedist
- An orderly
- A social worker
Many facilities can also come into malpractice lawsuits if the accused were on duty inside the facility when the injury took place. This can include places like:
- Medical clinics
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Testing facilities
- Hospice facilities
- Surgical centers
- Retirement or nursing homes
- Dental offices
- Research labs
Manufacturers can also be held liable in some cases of medical malpractice. However, these cases begin when a medical device of some sort fails. Then, it is up to the court to decide if the fault lies with the malfunctioning device, or if the fault should lie with the doctor, his or her staff, or the hospital the device was placed at. Sometimes, the doctor does not have enough training or skill to place the device and keep it updated, so it fails. Other times, the device was never functioning right, to begin with, so the manufacturer would be at fault. It all depends on the specifics of the case.
What If More Than One Party Is To Blame for The Injury?
When more than one party is at fault for an injury, the court is responsible for determining just how much fault is placed on each party. If the injured party is at fault, he or she can still receive damages so long as the percentage of fault is under half. If the percentage is over half, then nothing can be done, and the claim will be closed. However, if more than one party outside of the injured party is to blame, then the amount of damages is split up between the parties to their percentage of fault. For example, if a doctor is considered 75 percent at fault, and the hospital is 25 percent at fault, then the doctor would be responsible for covering 75 percent of the damages awarded, and the hospital would pay out on the rest.
What Are the Damage Caps for Idaho Medical Malpractice Cases?
When the term damages come up, many people are confused about what type of compensation can be requested from the court. There are two different styles of damages. There are damages to cover bills and the financial side of things, called monetary damages. Then there are also general damages, which are also called non-economic damages. Idaho code allows for an injured party to go after both, but the general damages have a cap to them.
Monetary damages include money to cover things like:
- Expenses the injured party had to undertake to cover medical treatment because of the injury. This can be medical bills, prescription costs, and procedural costs to try to restore the injured party to a pre-injured state
- Medical equipment that the injured party may need to restore mobility, function, and normalcy to his or her life following the injury
- Wages that could not be paid out to the injured party while he or she was recovering from the injury
- Future wages if the injured party will not be able to go back to the same job he or she had before the injury
- Future medical expenses to get the injured party as close to normal as he or she was before the injury
Monetary damages do not have any type of cap on them according to state law. Non-economic damages, on the other hand, do have a cap of $250,000, but it adjusts according to the cost of living each year. The cap only applies to medical negligence. It is waived if the jury believes the accused acted willfully or recklessly toward the injured party. The types of damages an injured party can go after for general damages includes:
- The pain and suffering that stemmed from the injury.
- The hassle that came from the injury and all of the follow-up care.
- Loss of happiness with life that came after the injury.
- The loss of being able to act the same way with loved ones or help around the house is called the loss of consortium, and damages can be sought for this as well.
- Any humiliation that came as a result of the injury, such as with disfigurement or loss of a body part.
- The anguish that came from the injury.
- Funeral expenses if the injured party died because of his or her injuries.
- Loss of companionship to friends, family, and spouses.
- Any type of emotional distress that came as a result of the injury, including anxiety from not knowing how to pay bills or cover daily expenses.
In the rarest of circumstances, there may also be what is called punitive damages. These are damages that are solely meant to punish the accused. These are only awarded when someone can prove malicious intent, fraud, or an outrageous act from the accused to the injured party. This means that if the accused was inherently cruel to the injured party, he or she might owe punitive damages back to the injured party. This can be as much as three times whatever the compensatory damages are, or up to $250,000, whichever ends up being the larger amount.
Is Going to Court Without an Idaho Medical Malpractice Lawyer Allowed?
Anytime a plaintiff wants to take his or her chances in court, they are welcome to. However, the chances of getting a favorable outcome are slim to none. Court leads to stress because of the complexities that come with all of the nuances of the law. Unless the injured party is familiar with the law, then the chances of him or her getting any type of settlement or compensation are very small. Insurance companies and healthcare professionals hire big-time lawyers who make much money by saving their clients a fortune. Going up against a lawyer like this is going to cause issues to someone who is already trying to heal from an injury.
To understand what consequences going into court alone might have, look at the simple things that can happen just from too much daily stress to a human body:
- Levels of pain are higher due to adrenaline.
- Insomnia is something many stressed-out people face, which makes healing, as well as focusing on the tasks required for court, harder.
- Stress puts increased pressure on the immune system, making healing harder and making it more likely that the injured party will get sick more often.
- Cardiac issues are common among those who are overly stressed. This can include higher risks for heart disease, having a heart attack or stroke, or even increasing the chances of dying.
- Depression and anxiety are often part of feeling stressed out. This could cause an injured party to give up on trying to get better and make healing take significantly longer.
Now that the obvious symptoms are there, it is easy to see why seeking the advice of an experienced attorney is the best route to take. It may just be a slow process to find the right lawyer to get the job done.
Reasons Why a Medical Malpractice Attorney May Turn Down Your Malpractice Case
Not all cases can go to fruition in the Idaho legal system. Sometimes, a lawsuit does not have enough steam to make it into court and go anywhere. In those cases, trying to file a medical malpractice lawsuit is a waste of time and resources. If a victim of medical malpractice finds an attorney that says that he or she cannot take on the case, the best thing to do is ask why. These are some reasons the attorney may decline the case, which may be a benefit to the injured patient:
- The attorney does not feel comfortable trying to explain what happened to a judge or jury.
- The attorney does not understand what led to the injury or how the injury has changed the plaintiff’s life.
- The cost of proving that the injury happened, or who caused the injury, may be higher than what the attorney has available to put toward a case. Since most cases in Idaho take a significant period of time in court and typically only settle after a long time, the costs can quickly add up to be too much.
- The attorney believes that the compensation for the injuries will not be enough to help the injured party when the case is done.
What to Look for in an Idaho Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Finding a lawyer that will take on the case may take time, but it is worth the effort if the injury is severe, ongoing, or permanent. The best way to find a lawyer who understands the case is by asking around. Through the early development of an attorney-client relationship, both the attorney and the injured party can work together to bring the case to fruition. To narrow down what type of attorney the plaintiff wants to work with, the injured party should take some time and call around to local attorneys who specialize in practice areas that all involve malpractice. Some of the most important questions to ask a prospective attorney include:
- Is the attorney able to understand what happened with the injury? Could he or she explain it back to the injured party accurately to display this understanding?
- Is the attorney in good standing with the state bar association?
- What kind of opening does the attorney have in his or her schedule? Would the attorney be doing most of the work, or would it be pushed along to paralegals, assistants, and investigators?
- Does the attorney see any type of reason not to file this case in court? What holdups does the attorney believe will come as a result of the type of injury, the length of time, or the background of the accused?
- Has this attorney been practicing law with a specialty in malpractice for a significant amount of time?
- Out of all the cases, this attorney has filed, how many of them wound up with a settlement or damages at the end of the case?m
- What type of investigation will come as a result of this type of injury? Who will the attorney need to speak with and get depositions from?
- Are any current details of the case a deterrent in the lawyer’s experience?
- If the attorney believes this case could go to trial and win, what type of settlement does the attorney estimate could result?
- Will the attorney need any type of expert testimony to prosecute this case?
- How are fees handled? Which will the law firm cover, and which will the injured party be responsible for? When are those fees due?
- When is the last time the attorney prosecuted a case similar to this? What was the outcome of that case?
- How many people does the attorney have to work with to aid in the investigation, filing documents in court, and gathering evidence?
- Does the attorney travel to meet the plaintiff when meetings need to happen, or will the attorney only call? For example, if a plaintiff is in Boise, but the attorney is in Nampa, will the attorney drive out, or will the injured party need to drive?
Each answer can give the injured party a good idea of how far the lawyer will go to advocate for his or her recovery. The more comfortable the plaintiff feels with the attorney, the better the chances are that they can work together to hold the accused accountable in front of a judge.
Benefits of Having a Medical Malpractice Attorney to Help With the Case
Personal injury attorneys who specialize in medical malpractice understand what the courts want better than anyone else. The experience they have can help be the differentiating factor between those who win their cases, and those who walk away empty-handed. Some ways that an attorney can make the process easier on the injured party include:
- Gathering the necessary evidence to start the preliminary processes or to go to trial
- Some attorneys work directly with doctors so they can learn how to explain a medical ailment in a way that makes sense and so they can understand how the injury could have taken place
- They know how to go into court and advocate for the injured party without getting overly emotional
- Arranging for testimony from the medical experts in the case
- Experienced attorneys can help negotiate better settlements than those who do not have experience in a courtroom
- Attorneys know how to use evidence to prove fault
- Their team of investigators and paralegals can help get things together for a case more quickly than any one person trying to do it alone
- Attorneys know how to talk so that a judge and a jury can understand what happened to the injured party, while still making the medical points that need to happen
- Taking depositions from the injured party, the accused, and anyone who witnessed the case without getting emotionally involved
- They are aware of what words to use in court and when speaking with insurance companies to get the point across without getting too pushy
- Experienced attorneys understand what goes into calculating settlements and damages and can give a much better idea of what can come out of a case should it go to trial, than an attorney that does not have experience with the financial side of these cases
Many people in Idaho need to find medical malpractice attorneys to help them battle against a medical error that caused an injury. However, each injured individual must pick the right attorney to stand by his or her side in court. No matter if the injury happened in a Boise hospital or while seeing a dentist in Meridian, an attorney can make the process faster, easier, and likely more successful. Anyone who suffered an injury at the hands of a medical professional has the right to seek compensation for the injury. Turn to an experienced lawyer today so that the injuries can stop being life’s focus in the near future.