Idaho Personal Injury Laws and Statutes of Limitations

If you've been injured in an accident in Idaho, make sure you understand these rules before you start your personal injury case.

By , Attorney · University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law

You live in Idaho and want to file a personal injury (PI) insurance claim or lawsuit. Maybe you were injured in a car accident, hurt by a doctor's medical malpractice, or suffered a slip and fall injury. If you're like most people, you don't know much about the state laws and rules that will govern your PI claim. We'll fill you in on the basics.

Idaho Motor Vehicle Insurance Requirements

Idaho has adopted a traditional fault-based motor vehicle insurance system. Like nearly every state, Idaho requires you to have liability insurance for your car.

Idaho's Fault-Based Insurance System

Suppose you're in an Idaho car wreck. The wreck was the other driver's fault and you were injured. Under Idaho's fault-based insurance system, you can file an insurance claim or a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to recover compensation (called "damages") for your injuries and losses.

If your claim or lawsuit succeeds, your damages will fall into two broad categories. Special (also called "economic") damages reimburse you for expenses such as your medical bills, lost income and benefits, and other out-of-pocket losses. General (also called "noneconomic") damages compensate you for injuries like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.

(Learn more about how to value personal injury claims.)

Idaho Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Requirements

Under Idaho law, "[e]very owner of a motor vehicle which is registered and operated in Idaho" must "provide insurance against loss resulting from liability…for bodily injury or death or damage to property… ." (Idaho Code § 49-1229(1) (2023).) The minimum coverage amounts are:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury to, or the death of, one person in one accident
  • $50,000 for bodily injuries to, or the death of, two or more people in one accident, and
  • $15,000 for property damage in one accident.

(Idaho Code § 49-117(20) (2023).)

(Learn more about Idaho's auto insurance requirements.)

Idaho's Time Limits for Filing Personal Injury Lawsuits

Idaho has a deadline, called a "statute of limitations," on filing PI lawsuits in court. We'll begin by explaining the basic time limit, then we'll look at some exceptions and special rules that might apply in certain cases.

The Basic Rule: Two Years From the Date of Injury

For most Idaho personal injury claims, you have two years from the date you were injured to file a lawsuit in court. (Idaho Code § 5-219.4 (2023).) This limitation period expressly includes lawsuits for:

Note that you might have more time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit if:

  • a foreign object was inadvertently left in your body by a hospital or health care provider, or
  • your injury was "fraudulently and knowingly concealed" from you.

Exceptions and Special Time Limits

Idaho law includes a variety of exceptions to the two-year general rule, as well as special time limits that apply in particular circumstances. Here are some—but not all—of them.

Time Limits for Suits by Minors

When a minor (in Idaho, younger than 18 years old) is injured, the limitation period is "tolled" (temporarily stopped) until the earlier of:

  • six years after the date of the injury, or
  • the person's 18th birthday.

(Idaho Code § 5-230 (2023).)

Once the tolling period ends, the statute of limitations begins (or resumes) running.

Responsible Party Leaves the State

When the party who's responsible for your injuries leaves the state, the limitation period is tolled until the earlier of:

Here too, the limitations period begins or resumes when the tolling period ends.

Claims Against the Government or Government Employees

Special—and very short—time limits apply to PI claims against Idaho, its political subdivisions, and their employees. Here are the basics.

Claims Against Idaho and Its Employees

Before you can sue Idaho or its employees in court for your PI claim, you must first file your claim with the Idaho Secretary of State. Idaho Code § 6-907 (2023) describes what your claim must include. The Secretary of State has an online claim form you can use. Note, importantly, that filing a claim with the Secretary of State is not the same as filing a lawsuit in court.

The filing deadline is short: You must file your claim within 180 days after the date you were injured or the date you should have discovered you were injured. (Idaho Code § 6-905 (2023).) Minors must file their claims within 180 days from the earlier of:

  • six years after the date of the injury or the date the injury reasonably should have been discovered, or
  • their 18th birthday. (Idaho Code § 6-906A(1) (2023).)

If you want to file a PI lawsuit against Idaho or its employees, you must do so within two years from the date you were injured or you reasonably should have discovered your injury. Failure to file within the deadline means your lawsuit is "forever barred." (Idaho Code § 6-911 (2023).)

Claims Against Idaho Political Subdivisions and Their Employees

Generally speaking, the claim and lawsuit filing rules that apply to claims against Idaho also apply to claims against Idaho political subdivisions (as defined in Idaho Code § 6-902.2 (2023)) and their employees. Here are the main differences.

You've got 180 days from the date you were injured or the date you reasonably should have discovered your injury to file your PI claim with "the clerk or secretary of the political subdivision." (Idaho Code § 6-906 (2023).) Contact that office to find out what your claim needs to include and whether there's a form you should use. Once again, filing a claim with the municipality is not the same as filing a lawsuit in court.

The two-year statute of limitations applicable to lawsuits against Idaho (Idaho Code § 6-911 (2023)) also applies to lawsuits against most Idaho political subdivisions. But here's one important exception to that two-year deadline: Any claim against an Idaho county must be filed in court within the earlier of six months from the date the claim is first rejected by the board of county commissioners (Idaho Code § 5-221 (2023)) or two years after the date of injury.

Where and How to File an Idaho Personal Injury Lawsuit

Your PI case is a type of civil lawsuit. Where and how you file it will be controlled, for the most part, by Idaho statutes, and by court rules called the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure. The court rules are complex and can be difficult to understand. Unless you're familiar with them, you'll want to have an experienced Idaho PI lawyer handle your lawsuit for you.

Idaho Legal Aid has a helpful handout describing the Idaho civil lawsuit process.

Where to File Your Lawsuit

The entry-level trial court in Idaho—the court where most PI lawsuits should be filed—is called the district court. As a general rule, you file your PI lawsuit in the county where the party you're suing, called the "defendant," lives. If you're suing an Idaho corporation, you can file the case in the county where the corporation has its principal place of business or where your injury happened. (Idaho Code § 5-404 (2023).)

How to File Your Lawsuit

You start an Idaho lawsuit by filing a complaint with the clerk of the district court. (Idaho R. Civ. Proc. 3(b) (2023).) In addition, you'll need to file a completed case information sheet. (Idaho R. Civ. Proc. 3(d) (2023).)

Your complaint should describe, in separate, numbered paragraphs:

  • the parties to the lawsuit
  • when, where, and how the accident or event causing your injuries happened
  • your injuries
  • what the defendant did wrong to cause your injuries, and
  • the relief (usually damages) you want the court to award you.

Idaho law might require your complaint to include or exclude specific information. For example, (Idaho Code § 5-335 (2023)) says that in any lawsuit for "personal injury or [wrongful] death, [the complaint] shall not specify the amount of damages claimed… ." Again, you should hire an Idaho lawyer to help you file your lawsuit.

When you file your lawsuit with the court clerk, you'll need to:

  • prepare a summons (an order directing the defendant to appear and defend the case), and
  • pay the filing fee, unless you're asking the court to waive payment.

Once you've filed your complaint, you must "serve" each defendant—that is, formally deliver a copy of the summons and your filed complaint. (See Idaho R. Civ. Proc. 4(b)-(g) (2023).) You have 182 days after filing your complaint to serve each defendant. If you don't serve a defendant in time, the court can dismiss that party from your lawsuit. (Idaho R. Civ. Proc. 4(b)(2) (2023).)

What Happens If I'm Partly to Blame for My Injuries?

To win your personal injury case, you have to prove that the defendant was legally at fault for your injuries. Quite often, the defendant will argue that you, too, were at least partly to blame for what happened. This defense—called "comparative negligence"—is available in Idaho. Here's how it works.

Idaho's Modified Comparative Negligence Rule

Idaho has adopted what's called a "modified comparative negligence" rule. Under Idaho law, you can recover some damages for your injuries, as long as you aren't found to be 50% or more to blame for the accident. Your share of the fault simply reduces the amount of damages you can collect. If you're found to be 50% or more at fault, though, Idaho law bars you from collecting any damages. (Idaho Code § 6-801 (2023).)

Idaho Modified Comparative Negligence Example

Say you're shopping in an Idaho grocery store. As you walk down an aisle looking for items on the shelves, you don't notice a cracked floor tile in your path. You trip and fall on the broken tile, badly injuring your knee. You sue the grocery store for negligence. The store responds that you're partly to blame because if you'd been watching where you were going, you wouldn't have tripped and fallen.

After a trial, the jury finds your total damages come to $100,000. But the jurors agree that you were 25% at fault for the accident. How much can you collect? Because you were 25% to blame, you can collect 75% of your damages: $100,000 x 75% = $75,000.

What if the jury had found you to be 50% (or more) at fault? Under Idaho's modified comparative negligence rule, you'd collect zero damages.

Does Idaho Limit Personal Injury Damages?

Yes, Idaho is one of many states that limit, or "cap" certain personal injury damages.

Idaho Caps General Damages

Idaho law puts a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages. (Idaho Code § 6-1603(1) (2023).) As discussed above, these damages cover injuries like pain and suffering and emotional distress.

The cap is per claimant, not per defendant. In other words, you can't recover more than $250,000 in noneconomic damages regardless of the number of defendants who are legally responsible for your injuries. (Idaho Code § 6-1603(2) (2023).) The cap is adjusted annually for inflation. As of July 1, 2022, the adjusted cap amount was $430,740.

The cap doesn't apply if your injuries were caused by:

  • willful or reckless misconduct, or
  • conduct the court finds beyond a reasonable doubt would amount to a felony under Idaho law.

(Idaho Code § 6-1603(4) (2023).)

In PI cases of moderate or significant value, these damage caps will significantly reduce the value of your claim. In cases tried to a jury, the jury can't be told about the caps.

(Idaho Code § 6-1603(3) (2023).)

Other Damage Limits Under Idaho Law

Here are some other damage limits that might apply in your PI case.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages—meaning damages that are intended to punish a wrongdoer, not compensate an injured party—are capped at the greater of $250,000 or three times the total of all compensatory damages (the sum of general and special damages) awarded. (Idaho Code § 6-1604(3) (2023).) Punitive damages aren't available against the government or its employees. (Idaho Code § 6-918 (2023).)

Because punitive damages are rarely awarded in PI cases, these limits aren't likely to impact the value of your PI claim.

Damages Against the Government

Idaho law limits the damages you can collect from the government or its employees. The total amount of damages that can be assessed against all government defendants in one case can't exceed $500,000, regardless of the number of injured persons, unless the government has a greater amount of liability insurance. (Idaho Code § 6-926(1) (2023).)

Get Help With Your Idaho Personal Injury Case

We've touched on the basics of Idaho personal injury law, but if you have a claim or a lawsuit, there's much more you need to know. Unless you're familiar with statutes of limitations, comparative fault, how to file a lawsuit and more, your best chance of success will come from having an experienced Idaho personal injury lawyer in your corner. Odds are that your opponent will be represented by legal counsel. To make it a fair fight, you should be too.

If you're ready to move forward, here's how to find an attorney who's right for you.

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