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Tennessee Medical Malpractice Law - An Overview

Important Notice: The following overview of Tennessee's medical malpractice laws is presented on an as-is basis. This information is believed accurate as of the date of authorship, but is not intended to provide a complete analysis of medical malpractice law and may not reflect subsequent changes in the law. For a full review of Tennessee's medical malpractice law, or for a determination of how the law applies to a specific incident or injury, please consult a malpractice lawyer licensed to practice in the state of Tennessee.

Contents

What Is Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice, sometimes referred to as medical negligence, occurs when a health care provider violates the governing standard of care when providing treatment to a patient, causing the patient to suffer an injury. Medical malpractice can result from an action taken by the medical practitioner, or by the failure to take a medically appropriate action. Examples of medical malpractice include:

  • Misdiagnosis of, or failure to diagnose , a disease or medical condition;
  • Failure to provide appropriate treatment for a medical condition;
  • Unreasonable delay in treating a diagnosed medical condition;

Medical malpractice actions can be brought by the injured patient against any responsible licensed health care provider, including doctors, counselors, psychologists and psychotherapists.

Limits on Malpractice Damages

Tennessee does not limit damages in medical malpractice cases.

Collateral Source Rule

Under a traditional collateral source rule, a defendant may not seek to reduce its liability by introducing evidence that the plaintiff has received compensation from other sources, such as the plaintiff's own insurance coverage. In Tennessee there is a mandatory offset, except for private insurance or for assets purchased by the plaintiff.

Rules for Expert Witnesses

Expert witnesses must be licensed in Tennessee or in a contiguous state, and must have been in practice for at least one year prior to the date of the plaintiff's injury.

Joint and Several Liability

Under the rule of joint and several liability, where more than one defendant is found liable for the injury suffered by a plaintiff, each defendant is individually liable for the entire amount of the judgment, such that if one defendant is unable to pay the other defendant or defendants are liable for the entire amount of the judgment.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations in medical malpractice actions is one year following the date of the event or incident giving rise to the injury, or one year from the date of the discovery of the injury, but in no event may a medical malpractice action be brought more than three years after the date on which the negligent act or omission occurred except where there is fraudulent concealment on the part of the defendant. In the event of fraudulent concealment, a medical malpractice action must be commenced within one year after discovery that the cause of action exists. For actions involving a foreign object which has been negligently left in a patient's body, the action shall be commenced within one year after the injury or wrongful act is discovered or should have been discovered. Under Tennessee law, the statute of limitations begins to run on a minor's eighteenth birthday.

Limits on Attorney Fees

Contingent attorney fees are limited to 1/3 of the recovery.

Additional Rules

Tennessee law provides for voluntary arbitration.

Why Use A Malpractice Lawyer

Medical malpractice law is a highly technical field of law, and malpractice lawsuits tend to be fiercely defended by well-funded defense firms.

Medical malpractice lawsuits can be exceptionally expensive to pursue, with costs often exceeding $100,000.00. Due to the technical skills involved in prosecuting a malpractice claim, the possibility that an inexperienced lawyer may not be sufficiently conversant with the medical issues, or might make a technical error which causes a case to be lost or dismissed, and the very high costs the malpractice law firm typically must advance, an injured patient is very well served by going with a specialist firm.

Even within the specialized practice of medical malpractice law, you will find that some lawyers have subspecialties of practice, for example focusing on surgical errors, misdiagnosis, or birth trauma cases.