The state of Idaho routinely monitors injury-related statistics and carries out initiatives that help improve the safety of its citizens. After seeing a reduction of 19% in total traffic fatalities in 2022, the state’s Office of Highway Safety continues its efforts to eliminate accident-related injuries and deaths by accepting grants that will fund local traffic safety projects. Meanwhile, Get Healthy Idaho annually executes and maintains risk reduction strategies that focus on mitigating the occurrence of accidental deaths caused by mishaps such as vehicle crashes and falls.
In addition to these initiatives and programs, Idaho has enacted a number of personal injury laws that guide state residents if they end up suffering any kind of harm due to the negligence of others. This article focuses on discussing some of these laws, specifically those that concern medical malpractice, premises liability, and dog bites. It also explains other factors that are taken into consideration in a case, such as Idaho’s modified comparative negligence rule, the statute of limitations, and personal injury damage caps.
Idaho Medical Malpractice Law
Medical malpractice involves cases wherein a doctor or health practitioner injures a patient under their care or worsens their condition due to a mistake. Examples of malpractice include surgical, anesthetic, and medical errors, as well as the failure to diagnose or warn the patient of any related medical risks involved. The victim or their dependents (in case the error committed resulted in the patient’s death) can sue the doctor or practitioner for negligence if certain requirements are met under Idaho law.
To prove the defendant’s negligence in a malpractice case, it must first be proven that the plaintiff was directly treated by the defendant. Afterward, the plaintiff must show whether or not the defendant acted within the medical standard of care required in their field and how they deviated from such a standard. Lastly, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s failure to adhere to the medical standard of care resulted in actual harm. In these cases, proof can be obtained from corroborating statements given by other doctors or practitioners who work in the same field as the defendant.
Before a victim can take any sort of legal action against a practitioner in a malpractice case in Idaho, they must first submit their claim to a hearing panel assembled by the Idaho Board of Medicine for a prelitigation screening. The panel will decide whether or not the plaintiff’s claim has merit by scrutinizing the evidence presented, listening to eyewitness statements, and reviewing relevant medical records. If it finds the plaintiff’s claim to be meritorious, it will advise the parties involved on a potential settlement amount, though this proposal is not considered legally binding.
The panel can have up to 90 days to reach a decision regarding a plaintiff’s claim. If it is unable to decide by that time, it must conclude the prelitigation proceedings, though the parties involved can decide whether to allow an extension of up to 30 more days.
Legal Guidelines and Rules in Idaho Dog Bite Cases
Idaho lacks any state-specific statute for instances where a dog bites and injures an individual. Instead, it adheres to the one-bite rule, wherein a dog bite victim can only pursue and recover compensation from the dog’s owner, keeper, or handler if the animal had previously bitten a person and the defendant was already aware of its conduct. If either of these factors is not present, the victim cannot recover any damages from the defendant.
Under state law, dogs can be classified as either at-risk or dangerous. At-risk dogs refer to those that bite a person without justified provocation and without bruising, lacerating, or inflicting any serious injury that would require medical treatment. Dangerous dogs, on the other hand, are those that have been previously classified as at-risk and have inflicted a serious injury on a person without any justified provocation.
Dogs are not considered at-risk or dangerous if there is justified provocation involved. This applies in cases where:
The dog is responding to pain or injury.
The dog is protecting its offspring or a person in its immediate vicinity from a threat or attack.
The dog is a trained service animal that was assisting a disabled person.
The dog is trained to hunt or herd animals and bites a person who is interfering with its lawful duties.
The dog bites a person who is committing a crime against its owner/custodian and/or their property.
The dog bites a person who had previously assaulted or abused it.
The dog bites a person who is intervening in a fight or display of aggressive behavior between two or more animals
Any person who owns, harbors, or possesses a dangerous or at-risk dog can be charged with violating relevant state laws and made to pay damages to victims the animal has bitten. The dog's handler or owner may be required by the court to adhere to certain safety precautions, such as restraint with a strong leash and confinement in a locked enclosure.
Premises Liability in Idaho
Idaho law dictates that property owners have a duty of care to any individuals who enter their property, wherein they must be in the know about any potential hazards or risks on the premises and take the necessary measures to ensure that no person suffers harm because of them. As such, an individual who is injured on another person’s property can pursue compensation if they can prove that the owner was aware of the hazard or dangerous condition that caused their injury and neglected to establish safety measures in line with their duty of care.
In order to determine whether an owner owes a person a duty of care when they visit their property, the visitor in question must be classified among one of the following categories:
Invitees or people who enter a property with the purpose of conducting business; examples are diners in a restaurant or customers in a store.
Licensees or people who enter a property for their own benefit; examples are visitors at parties or social gatherings.
Trespassers or people who enter a property without the owner’s consent or permission; examples of these are vandals.
In general, property owners owe the highest duty of care to invitees, followed by licensees. Conversely, they are not obligated to preserve the safety of trespassers; instead, state law dictates that they must only refrain from engaging in any intentional, wanton, or willful acts that cause injury to such individuals.
Idaho’s Modified Comparative Negligence Law
Idaho follows the legal principle of modified comparative negligence for personal injury cases. This means that any plaintiff who is partially liable for the accident or incident that caused their injury will have their total damages reduced based on the percentage of their shared fault. Examples of this include an auto accident case where a motorist made a sudden turn and caused another vehicle to crash into them or a premises liability case where a person slips and sprains their ankle on a wet floor even if there are warning signs present alerting them of such a hazard.
The state also adheres to a 50% threshold for scenarios that involve modified comparative negligence. In these cases, a plaintiff will be totally barred from recovering any damages if the percentage of their fault reaches or exceeds 50%.
Idaho Business Liability Insurance Requirements
While business liability insurance is not explicitly required in Idaho, business owners are still encouraged to obtain such policies to protect themselves against any financial losses. These can occur if a person is injured at their establishment or if one of their employees causes a mishap that results in injury or property damage. Business liability insurance can also cover losses stemming from slander, libel, and copyright infringement, as well as any damages resulting from advertising.
In terms of how much business liability insurance one must get, certain factors are taken into account, including the type of business involved and the volume of interaction an establishment has with the public. For smaller establishments, any insurance worth between $500,000 and $1 million is considered sufficient. However, high-risk businesses and those that interact with the public often, such as retailers and restaurants, are encouraged to obtain higher coverage.
It should be noted that Idaho requires businesses with one or more full-time, seasonal, or part-time workers to have workers’ compensation insurance. This policy is used to cover any expenses involving a worker’s lost wages and medical treatment if they are injured or fall sick due to work-related hazards and accidents. In addition, businesses with employees who live and work in the state must pay unemployment insurance taxes, which are used to compensate eligible workers who have lost their jobs.
How Much Can Someone Sue For an Injury in Idaho?
Idaho does not impose any limitations on the total amount of economic damages that can be recovered in a personal injury case. This means that victims and their dependents may be reimbursed in full for any financial losses stemming from medical and rehabilitative expenditures, as well as repair costs and lost wages.
However, the state does have a cap of $250,000 on any noneconomic damages in personal injury and wrongful death claims, with the overall limit being adjusted for inflation on a yearly basis. Total noneconomic damages are calculated based on the percentage increase brought on by inflation and the average weekly wage in the state for that year. The damage cap does not apply if the defendant involved engaged in reckless or willful misconduct or if it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that they committed a felony under state or federal law.
Idaho also has a limit of $500,000 on the total compensatory damages that can be recovered from a government entity in a tort claim. These claims can stem from accidents or mishaps that are caused by the negligence of the government entity, such as when a vehicular crash occurs on a road that an agency has failed to maintain properly.
Lastly, the state limits the total punitive damages that can be recovered by personal injury plaintiffs to $250,000 or three times the amount of their compensatory damages, whichever is greater. Punitive damages are awarded if it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant in a case engaged in outrageous, malicious, or fraudulent conduct against the plaintiff. Additionally, they can only be considered by the court after a pretrial motion has been filed since they cannot be included in a plaintiff’s original claim.
The Statute of Limitations in Idaho
According to the Idaho Legislature, personal injury plaintiffs have a maximum of two years to file a claim or lawsuit against at-fault individuals. This statute of limitations applies to legal action involving bodily injuries caused by accidents and medical malpractice, along with claims or lawsuits concerning libel or slander. If a case involves only property damage or fraud, the statute of limitations lasts for up to three years. These deadlines often begin on the date when the incident involving the cause for legal action occurs.
If a plaintiff seeks to file a tort claim against a government entity or employee for an accident, they must notify the government of their claim within 180 days. Likewise, the statute of limitations for tort claims against the government is two years from the date of the incident. Both deadlines begin either on the date that the cause for legal action accrues or on the date when it should have been reasonably discovered, whichever is later.
If the victim in a case perishes from their injuries, their representative or dependents can file a wrongful death claim within the same two-year deadline. In these cases, however, the statute of limitations begins on the date of the victim’s death instead of the date of the underlying accident or incident that led to their passing.
Exceptions and Changes to Idaho’s Statute of Limitations
There are a number of exceptions or changes that can apply to Idaho’s civil statute of limitations. For example, if the person who is entitled to take legal action is legally insane or under the age of 18, the law will not count the duration of such disabilities as part of the statute’s duration. However, the statute cannot be extended beyond a duration of six years in such cases.
Additionally, if the defendant in a personal injury case is absent from the state when the cause for legal action accrues against them, the statute of limitations will only begin upon their return to the state. If the defendant leaves the state after the cause of action accrues, the duration of their absence will not be counted toward the statute’s duration.
Lastly, if the final day to take legal action falls on a day when the district court’s clerk office is closed due to an emergency or inclement weather conditions, the time given to a plaintiff in filing a claim or lawsuit will be extended to the first full day that the office reopens, up to the end of its business hours.
Legal Resources for Injured Folks in Idaho
The Idaho State Bar’s website has a number of legal services that citizens can access through the Public Resources section. Those who wish to find an attorney that matches their specific location and legal concerns can use the Lawyer Referral Service. They can be connected to a specific lawyer for free if their case involves personal injury, medical malpractice, or workers’ compensation, while all other referrals will cost $35. Residents can also visit the websites of other organizations and legal clinics throughout the state by accessing the Additional Legal Resources section. In addition, they can find information on how to file grievances concerning ethical misconduct against a specific lawyer in the Bar Counsel section.
InjuryLawRights is a pro bono organization that is committed to providing legal aid to individuals who are involved in personal injury matters throughout the country. Any employees in Idaho who suffer injuries due to work-related accidents or hazards can seek free assistance from the organization’s local branch. Its website also offers basic information on the requirements and steps involved in establishing a workers’ compensation claim, including relevant documents and litigation processes. Those who wish to employ the organization’s services can contact 855-633-0888 for additional inquiries.
The Idaho Transportation Department allows the parties involved in a traffic accident case to search for and obtain a copy of the crash’s report online using a quick or advanced search option. Those who wish to view, download, and print an accident report must have a PDF viewer and pay a fee of $9. Once purchased, a report is available for download for up to 24 hours. Each report requires a few weeks of processing before it is made available on the ITD database, depending on the law enforcement agency that is investigating the crash in question.
Employees of state agencies in Idaho can visit the website of the Division of Human Resources for information on how to access workers’ compensation benefits if they suffer any injury at work. The division addresses basic questions regarding the submission of completed forms, the type of benefits a worker is eligible for, and the process involved when returning to work after an injury. The website’s Workers’ Compensation section also features downloadable PDF copies of relevant documents used for claims, such as the Supervisor Incident Report and the Incident/Injury Witness Statement forms.
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