Tennessee ranks very high among the 50 states for the number of lawsuits filed in the state for medical malpractice. It consistently ranks in the top ten, and in 2015 was number five with 33 lawsuits field for every 100,000 residents. Those cases include successful outcomes for some of the plaintiffs, amounting to nearly $46 million in total payouts.
Although there are many cases filed, a lot of them get dismissed or go in favor of the defendants. For this reason it is crucial that patients know they can rely on Tennessee medical malpractice lawyers to help them make their cases, prove negligence, and recover damages. Many of the laws in the state favor medical professionals, so finding and working with a knowledgeable and experienced malpractice lawyer is important.
Tennessee Medical Malpractice Laws
While the number of cases and the payouts are relatively high for medical malpractice in Tennessee, they have been dropping since laws were reformed in 2008 and 2011. The laws and the reforms can be complicated and difficult for lay people to understand, which is why Tennessee medical malpractice lawyers are such good advocates for patients. Still, it is important for patients to be aware of the laws and what rights they have after experiencing medical negligence.
One of the changes introduced was a damages cap in 2011. Patients who seek to recover damages for negligence and harm are limited as to how much they can be awarded. The cap currently sits at $750,000 for non-economic damages, which cover things like pain and suffering. Economic damages for specific costs like medical bills are not capped. For patients who are catastrophically injured, such as those that become paralyzed or brain damaged due to a medical error, the non-economic damages awarded cannot exceed $1 million.
Another law that limits patients’ access to the court system for medical negligence is a requirement that a certificate of good faith be filed with the lawsuit. It has to state that the plaintiff’s lawyer has consulted with a qualified medical expert whose opinion is that the case has merit and that there is evidence that negligence may have harmed the patient.
Patients should also be aware of the statute of limitations in the state. The limit is just one year, less than in most states, and begins when the negligence occurred or when it was discovered, as long as it could not have been reasonably discovered earlier. In either case a lawsuit cannot be filed more than three years after the actual negligence occurred. The only exceptions are in cases of fraud or a foreign object being left inside the patient.
Tennessee also has a law regarding the fault of the plaintiff in a case of medical negligence and harm. If the plaintiff is found to be partly to blame for the harm, he or she can still recover damages as long as that blame is less than the blame assigned to the defendant. Any blame that is less than that of defendant can cause the damages award to be reduced proportionately.
Possible Changes to Tennessee Malpractice Law
Malpractice is still an issue in Tennessee, even after the previous reforms were made. Advocates for an even stricter system that limits patients want to actually amend the state constitution to put a permanent damages cap in place. Others want to reform the laws to create a Patients’ Compensation System, or PCS.
A PCS would be a system that uses an independent panel of physicians and other people appointed by the state government. This panel would decide on specific costs of medical errors and compensate victims. This system would be used instead of lawsuits and trials. Patient advocates are opposed to both of these proposed changes. Both are in favor of medical professionals they say, and limit patient rights, especially the right to a fair trial.
Medical Malpractice Cases in Tennessee
Tennessee medical malpractice lawyers are always fighting hard for the victims of medical negligence in the state. They have the knowledge of the laws and the experience to give these victims the best chances of getting justice for the harm caused them. Many of these cases turn out in favor of the patient, thanks to the diligence of their lawyers.
In one of these cases a 72-year-old woman had to have her leg amputated below the knee because of her doctor’s failure to monitor her skin under a cast. She fell and suffered an ankle fracture. The doctor left her in the cast for a month, although she showed signs of bruising and skin discoloration. When he did remove the cast she had severe ulcers and infections that ultimately required her to undergo an amputation. Her lawyers worked hard to win her a jury award of $1.3 million, but it was reduced because the defense argued she was 25 percent to blame as a heavy drinker.
How to Find a Tennessee Medical Malpractice Lawyer
With laws that don’t favor victims and changes and reforms happening frequently, it is essential that anyone in the state who has suffered from negligence turn to a Tennessee medical malpractice lawyer for help. It is impossible to navigate this system alone, and challenging even with a lawyer who practices general law. You need a lawyer who practices only medical malpractice law, because this is the person who has the knowledge and experience to prove negligence and win justice for victims.
To find the right lawyer, and one who is in good standing and specializes in medical malpractice cases, contact the state bar association. You can narrow down your choices and interview potential lawyers before making a choice, but remember that the statute of limitations in the state is short, so making a decision in a timely fashion is important.
It is also important, of course, to be sure you are comfortable with the lawyer you choose, so ask questions before you make the selection. Ask about specific experiences with malpractice cases, what the outcomes were, and even for references from previous malpractice clients. You have a right to choose the lawyer you want, and when you make a careful choice you have the best chance of a successful outcome to your malpractice lawsuit.