Idaho Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Tend To Be Long Expensive Fights.
The reality is no one wants to be part of an Idaho medical malpractice lawsuit. When we are patients we tend to place a great amount of trust with our chosen health care providers. We respect them and their knowledge. We share our personal history, as well as physical and emotional issues. We accept prescriptions and allow them to undertake medical procedures. We place our life in the medical professional’s hands. We just want them to help us be healthy.
Finding that such trust and respect has been violated can be shocking. It is, however, just the first step in a long-process of accountability for the negligent provider.
Each state has its own litigation system. Here in Idaho the legislature and the courts have imposed special obligations on people injured by a medical professional. Those requirements tend to make make cases complex and difficult. And expensive. There are even things that must be done before a lawsuit can get started.
The Fundamentals of Your Idaho Medical Malpractice Lawsuit.
In Idaho an injured patient may pursue a claim for medical malpractice (or medical negligence) against a physician or other health care providers if the health care provider causes injury or death to the patient by a “breach of the standard of care.” There are many varieties of medical malpractice cases including thing like misdiagnosis, birth injury, surgical mistakes and medication errors.
A breach of the standard of care in any area of medicine is a negligent act or omission. To prevail in your case, as an injured patient you must prove:
- A provider-patient relationship existed;
- The provider violated the local standard of care that existed for the type of health care provider at the time and in the place the care was provided;
- An injury was caused by the provider’s acts or omissions; and
- The damages were a result of the breach of the standard.
Generally speaking, establishing these factors requires testimony of an expert.
How Long Do I Have To File My Idaho Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
The first thing you must look at when thinking about asserting a claim for medical malpractice is whether you are still within the allowed time limit. This time limit is the legal “statute of limitations.” Idaho law requires professional negligence personal injury claims be filed within two years of the date that the injured person incurred “some damage.”
The some damage rule creates problems in Idaho. There are times when a negligent act occurred but the injured person does not know the physician caused a problem. In these instances, the statute of limitations can pass even before one knows a claim exists. It is incredibly unfair but it is Idaho law.
The Foreign Body Exception.
There is one primary exception to the two-year statute. If the claim is based on a provider leaving a foreign object in your body (like a surgical sponge) or the provider fraudulently conceals the malpractice, the time is lengthened. The statute of limitations is placed on hold until one year after you either discover the existence of the foreign object or learn of the fraudulently concealed malpractice.
An Exception For Minors.
There is also an exception that applies for people injured under age 18. The statute of limitations is stayed for 6 years or until the they reach 18 years old. They then have 2 years after that to bring a lawsuit.
What If I Am Partially To Blame? Can I Still Recover Money from An Idaho Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
Idaho law has adopted a rule of law called modified comparative fault. The rule allows, in appropriate circumstances, a court to assign shared responsibility to various parties to a lawsuit, and even parties not involved in the lawsuit. This has the effect of reducing any damage award in proportion to a plaintiff’s share of responsibility. If you are deemed to share the same amount or more of responsibility as the defendant you are not allowed to recover damages for your injury.
Limits on the Recovery of Damages in Idaho. (Malpractice Damage Caps).
Idaho recognizes three components of damage awards that a plaintiff may recover:
- The first are economic damages. These are awarded for losses that are calculable in monetary terms. The goal is to put you back in same financial position you would be in but for the injury. The economic damages include things like medical expenses, lost wages and income, physical and rehabilitation therapy costs, lost future earnings. If proven, such damages can be awarded and recovered without limit.
- The second type of damages are referred to as non-economic, or general, damages. These are awarded to compensate you for things that are hard to quantify. People often refer to the pain and suffering part of general damages. It also includes things like the hassle of the injury, the loss of consortium, and the loss of enjoyment of life. The Idaho legislature adopted a limit of $250,000 on non-economic damage recovery. But it is adjusted each year based upon the average wage increase. In addition, if a jury concludes the defendant acted recklessly or willfully the damage cap does not apply.
- A third type of damages are punitive damages. These are not awarded to compensate you for an injury. Under Idaho law, punitive damages exist to punish a defendant and to deter future people from engaging in the same behavior. Punitive damages are only awarded if you can prove by clear and convincing evidence, oppressive, fraudulent, malicious or outrageous action on the part of the named defendants. Such damages are limited to three times the total of compensatory damages or $250,000 whichever is greater.
Expert Witnesses In Idaho Medical Malpractice Cases.
Expert witness are required in all medical malpractice cases. They are necessary to establish that there was a breach of the standard of care owed to you by a health care provider. Further they are required to prove that the breach at issue was the cause of your injury. In fact, an Idaho statute mandates expert opinion of those facts in all medical malpractice cases.
Experts must be properly qualified to testify. Idaho law requires a medical expert to have “actual knowledge” of the community standard applicable to your claim. This includes that it applies to the time period when your claim of malpractice arose. The term “community” means the geographical area ordinarily served by the licensed general hospital at or nearest to where care was provided.
Local physicians and health care providers are generally unwilling to serve as expert witnesses against other area doctors. This remains true even in situations where they think the other doctor really screwed things up. This often means that to find an expert we have to reach out to qualified people in other areas of the country. Such experts are very expensive. And dealing with travel costs and taking the experts away from their day to day work adds to that expense.
There are literally dozens of cases that the Idaho Supreme Court has reviewed and evaluated where the issue was whether a particular expert is properly qualified. A lawyer without a deep understanding of Idaho law can screw this issue up far more easily than you can imagine. And that can result in your case being thrown out of court. Some of the cases, like one from 2016 referred to as Easterling, create rules that are impractical and difficult to abide by because of the reluctance of local doctors to deal with local malpractice cases.
The Obligation To Go Through Pre-Litigation Screening Review.
Idaho requires every claim of medical malpractice to go through its pre-litigation review screening process. This is a semi-formal process that, in our view, has no real impact on valid cases. It is over seen by the Idaho Board of Medicine. Before you can file a lawsuit for a medical malpractice claim you must file for pre-litigation hearing with a Medical Malpractice Pre-Litigation Screening application form.
The pre-litigation hearings are general pretty informal and quick. A Panel Chairman, who is an a lawyer appointed by the Idaho State Bar, oversees the hearing. There is a doctor panelist and and a nondoctor panelist. At the hearing the injured person presents whatever evidence they would like. There is no cross examination by the doctor’s lawyer. The panelists sometimes do ask questions. Once the injured person has presented their side they leave. The doctor and his lawyer then come in and present their defense. Once the panel has heard the arguments of both sides, the hearing will come to a close. The Panel then issues a decision whether it concludes the case has merit. The opinion is not binding and generally ignored by both the doctor and the injured person. Once the opinion is issued, the claimant can file their lawsuit.
Except for the unique proof issues and requirements for experts, medical malpractice lawsuits follow the same process as other personal injury or negligence lawsuits.
Find The Best Idaho Medical Malpractice Lawyer For You.
Once it is initiated, medical malpractice litigation is complicated. The issues of proof and the measures that defendants and their attorneys will take in defense of these claims tend to create confrontational and less than pleasant experiences.
Finding and hiring skilled, diligent and experienced lawyers to work on such a case can be difficult. Given the complexities of the law and medicine involved there are only a few who can do the job right.
We believe, and think the record establishes, that there are no better medical malpractice lawyers in Idaho than those at Hepworth Holzer, LLP. Led by Charlie Hepworth, the team includes lawyers who have represented people injured by medical negligence across the state.
But we encourage you to take your time and evaluate who you want as your attorney. Are you comfortable with having this person go to battle for you? Is it someone you feel right sharing intimate truths with and trust one hundred percent? Because the attorney client relationship is important.
No firm in Idaho has more experience, or success, in the world of medical malpractice law. We have seen all the standard defenses many times and the non-standard defenses as well. We know which lawyers the doctors and hospitals hire. Some are hard-working diligent and honest people. Others you have to be more careful with.
We are proud both of our competence and with the strength of our personal relationships with our clients. We look forward to working with you to achieve a measure of justice for you. And, getting to know you.
If you are facing the challenge of an injury caused by a medical professional we are committed to showing you what we mean by Life-Changing Law. Contact us for a free case evaluation