Tennessee's history of treating the sick began in the 18th century when James Adair, a physician who traded with American Indians in the trans-Allegheny region, began applying natural remedies, such as snakeroot, wild horehound, and plantain, to injured American Indians.
Today, Tennessee is home to some of the most advanced hospitals in the world, including the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the CHI Memorial Hospital.
Nevertheless, medical errors happen.
In this article, we'll take a look at medical malpractice in the Volunteer State.
Medical malpractice occurs when a patient suffers harm because a healthcare professional deviates from the accepted standard of care.
Examples of acts that commonly result in medical malpractice claims include:
In Tennessee, a medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed against any licensed health care provider. This includes:
|Tennessee medical malpractice claims resolved (2015-2018)|
|Year||Claims resolved through settlement||Claims resolved through trial||Claims resolved through other (arbitration, dropped)|
In a Tennessee medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff has the burden of proving the following:
In medical malpractice cases, the focus is generally placed on establishing the appropriate standard of care. In other words, what should have been done in the situation? The appropriate standard of care is typically established by experts in the same field as the defendant who testifies about whether the defendant's actions were appropriate.
Tennessee medical malpractice cases are different than more common personal injury cases for a number of reasons, including the fact that there are certain procedural hoops plaintiffs must jump through before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Specifically, a plaintiff in a Tennessee medical malpractice action must do the following:
If these procedures aren't followed, the court may dismiss the plaintiff's case with prejudice, meaning the plaintiff will be permanently barred from filing the lawsuit.
Tennessee law only gives plaintiffs a certain amount of time to file a lawsuit. The amount of time a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit is called the statute of limitations and it exists so plaintiffs can't threaten defendants with litigation indefinitely.
Consider the following example:
Bill had surgery on June 1, 2021.
On June 7, 2021, Bill began experiencing sharp pains in his abdomen. He went to the doctor on June 10, 2021, to be treated for the pains. The doctor took x-rays and discovered that the surgeon had left a sponge in Bill's abdomen. In order to remove the sponge, Bill had to undergo a second surgery.
When does Bill have to file his medical malpractice claim against the surgeon?
Based on the statute of limitations, Bill has to file his medical malpractice claim by June 10, 2021—one year from the date Bill discovered that harm giving rise to a medical malpractice claim was committed.
There are certain narrow exceptions to the 1-year medical malpractice statute of limitations. The most common exception is for plaintiffs under the age of 18. If the plaintiff was under the age of 18 when they were injured, the statute of limitations doesn't start running until they turn 18.
In a Tennessee medical malpractice case, you can recover the following damages:
It's important to note that Tennessee places damage caps on medical malpractice cases. Specifically, Tennessee caps non-economic damages at $750,000.
In cases where the plaintiff suffers "catastrophic injuries" as a result of the malpractice, the $750,000 cap is increased to $1 million. Catastrophic injuries include:
Finally, Tennessee places a $500,000 cap on the amount of punitive damages that may be awarded.
|Total medical malpractice damages paid in Tennessee (2015-2018)|
|Year||Total damages paid by settlements||Total damages paid by judgments|
|2015||$54.96 million||$2.4 million|
|2016||$37.22 million||$2.8 million|
Medical malpractice cases can last for months or even years. What's more, the outcome of a medical malpractice case will likely impact the rest of your life. For these reasons, it's important to choose the right attorney to handle your case.
So how do you choose the right attorney?
Here are some things to keep in mind: