Idaho Medical Malpractice Insurance Primer

Malpractice Insurance Basics

  • 2 companies comprise 75% of the market.
  • Number of Physicians (Nov 2012): 2,738
  • Authorized Insurers: 50
  • Ranked the best state to practice in the West & Northwest Region by Medscape

Tort Reform

In 2003 Idaho amended the state non-economic damage cap from a previous $400,000 limit to $250,000 (Title 6-1603), with an added provision that the cap would be adjusted each year in July according to the “percentage amount of increase or decrease by which the Idaho industrial commission adjusts the average annual wage.” With this provision figured in the actual non-economic damage cap as of 2013 was approximately $320,000. One other caveat to the law is that it does not apply in cases of willful or reckless misconduct nor in cases where the conduct at issue is deemed to constitute a state or federal felony.

In addition to the cap on non-economic damages (i.e. pain and suffering, etc.), Title 6-1604 of the Idaho Statutes sets a cap on punitive damages of the greater of $250,000 or three times compensatory damages. Although punitive damages are relatively uncommon in malpractice cases it is good to know that in Idaho they do not present a tempting venue to trial lawyers for limitless awards.

Statute of Limitations

The basic statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims in Idaho is two years from the date of the alleged malpractice. There are three exceptions however:

  • Claims involving a foreign object left in the body must be brought either within two years of the event or within one year of the discovery of the wrongdoing, or when one should reasonably have discovered it.
  • Cases in which the provider has fraudulently and knowing concealed wrongdoing from the claimant may likewise be brought either within two years of the event or within one year of the discovery of the wrongdoing, or when one should reasonably have discovered it.
  • Cases in which the claimant is under the age of eighteen or insane may be “tolled” or paused until the claimant’s eighteenth birthday or the claimant’s recovery of mental competency, at which point the two year period begins to run. However, even in these cases “the time limited for the commencement of an action shall not be tolled for a period of more than six (6) years” (Title 5-230).

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Pre-Trial Screening

Idaho law requires that claims of medical malpractice be brought before a pre-litigation screening panel for evaluation before being filed in court. The panel is made up of three persons, and chaired by a licensed attorney. The other two members of the panel will be either a hospital administrator or physician (depending on whether the claim is against a hospital or a physician) and a third person who is neither a physician nor an attorney.

Both sides present their cases to the panel and then the panel has 90 days to return a verdict as to whether it is probable that the defendant violated the standard of care and thus the case should go to trial. The statute of limitations is tolled from the time the time the petition for pre-trial screening is submitted until 30 days after the panel issues its findings. The goal is to give both sides the opportunity to settle the dispute informally and apart from litigation.

Summary of the Idaho Medical Malpractice Insurance Market

The only real concern that one might have about the Idaho medmal insurance market is the lack of provider diversity, with so much of the market taken up by just two providers. That said, there are reasons for Medscape’s ranking Idaho as the best state to practice medicine in the West and Northwest. Idaho has the lowest physician density in the country, and yet has seen substantial population growth in recent years. This means that the supply and demand calculus works in your favor as a physician considering practicing in Idaho. Additionally, malpractice rates are very reasonable in Idaho, and compensation in the Northwest is roughly the same as the national median.