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The Basics of Tennessee Medical Malpractice Law

The Tennessee Medical Malpractice Act establishes the laws regarding Tennessee malpractice claims. Not only does the act define medical malpractice, but it also establishes limitations on how long a patient can wait to file a lawsuit against a medical provider.

If you are planning to file a medical malpractice claim, you should attempt to gain a basic understanding of the Tennessee Medical Malpractice Act. In addition, you should also reach out to medical malpractice attorneys in the Tennessee area to help assess your case for its strengths and weaknesses.

What Is Tennessee Malpractice?

To have a valid Tennessee medical malpractice claim, you must first establish that the healthcare professional breached, or violated, the standard of care while providing treatment to you.

A standard of care is the generally accepted practices and procedures for a group of medical professionals in the same geographic area regarding patients who are suffering from a particular illness. This standard of care will vary depending on a number of factors, including the patient's age and medical history. For example, the standard of care a doctor must subscribe to when treating a teenager who has an eye infection may be different than the standard of care used to treat a 50-year-old man with the same condition.

For the purposes of medical malpractice, a healthcare professional can be anyone involved in the treatment process, including doctors and nurses. Treatment can be any one of a number of things, including a diagnosis, the administration of anesthesia, surgery, or prescribing medication.

In addition to showing that the medical provider breached the standard of care, you and your attorney will also have to show that this breach resulted in your injury. An injury can take many forms under the laws in Tennessee. Birth injury, amputating the wrong limb, and leaving a foreign object inside a patient are all examples of injuries.

Tennessee malpractice cases can be difficult to prove because they require both legal and medical knowledge. You and your attorney will likely have to call upon medical experts to testify on your behalf to prove your case.

Statute of Limitations for Tennessee Medical Malpractice Claims

All states establish their own statute of limitations regarding medical malpractice cases. A statute of limitations sets parameters on how long an injured patient has to file a lawsuit against a medical provider for causing injury during treatment. Once this window of opportunity closes, the patient may no longer bring a claim in most circumstances.

According to Tennessee malpractice law, a medical malpractice claim must be brought within one year after the patient discovers the injury. However, the patient only has up to three years from the date that the doctor breached the standard of care to bring suit. This means that if an injury is discovered four years after treatment was administered, the patient may not file a lawsuit. This, limit, however, does not apply to cases involving foreign objects left inside a patient.

These strict deadlines underscore the importance of reaching out to a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible after you notice an injury.

Caps on Medical Malpractice Damages in Tennessee

Most states set limits on how much a patient may seek in court from a medical professional for committing medical malpractice. These awards are known as damages, and the limits placed on them by law are known as caps. Under Tennessee medical malpractice law, there are no caps on any type of damages.

Several types of damages are available to patients in Tennessee medical malpractice cases:

  • Compensatory Damages: These damages compensate injured patients for certain out-of-pocket expenses. These expenses can include such things as medical costs and lost wages due to days of work missed.
  • Non-Economic Damages: These damages compensate injured patients for intangible losses, such as pain and suffering. The amount awarded to a patient is typically decided upon by a jury.
  • Punitive Damages: These damages are awarded as a way to punish a medical provider for extraordinarily reckless behavior. To receive punitive damages, you must prove that the healthcare professional's actions involved such things as malicious intent or fraud.

Medical malpractice cases can be very complex and may take months, if not years, to resolve. If you have any further questions about the Tennessee malpractice process, you should talk to a Tennessee medical malpractice attorney in your area.