Hurdles to Your Tennessee Medical Malpractice Case: How the Statute of Limitations Works and Why You Need to Call Us Now

When we seek medical treatment from a qualified health care provider, we expect him or her to act in accordance with the acceptable professional practice of medicine to heal us.  In fact, physicians are one of the most trusted professions and revered by many individuals.  Moreover, most interactions with health care providers are positive and help us immensely.  But this is not always the true.  The unfortunate truth is that health care providers frequently make mistakes which give rise to hundreds of Tennessee medical malpractice cases each year.

Statistics from the Tennessee State government evinced that over 500 claims were filed each year.  Nationally, statistics estimate that approximately 225,000 individuals die from one form of medical malpractice each year.  Recently, we reviewed statistics which found almost 10,000 medical malpractice claims are caused by just surgical errors within the last twenty (20) years.  Thus, if you or a loved one are questioning the medical care rendered, you are not alone and should speak with a qualified and experienced Memphis medical malpractice attorney for a free consultation to assess your potential claim.

This decision is an important one and should not be delayed.  All states have what are called a “statute of limitations” to commence a claim.  This principle, which is technically a defense that must be pleaded by the defendant, is to prevent “stale claims” from being assessed against a party.  Essentially, the statute of limitations acts as a “fairness defense” which requires a plaintiff to bring a claim within a reasonable period of time.  This period of time allows for all parties, especially a potential defendant, to be able to effectively investigate the claim.  Naturally as time progresses, witness’ memories fade, evidence becomes unavailable, and the law and procedures change which may lead to inequitable results.

Each state has a different statute of limitations period and various exceptions to the rule for each different cause of action.  Under Tennessee law, an individual who has been harmed by the negligence of a health care provider only has one (1) year from the date of the injury to commence a claim.  Therefore, if a claim is commenced beyond one year and the defendant asserts the statute of limitations defense, the claim may be lost forever.

However, there are certain exceptions to the Tennessee medical malpractice statute of limitations.  One common exception is known as the “discovery rule.”  As the name implies, this rule applies to when a patient learns of the claim of medical malpractice and extends the statute of limitations for an additional year from the date of such discovery.  An example of the discovery rule is an injury that takes a longer period to manifest itself, such as nerve damage, or a foreign object left inside of the patient following a surgery.

It should also be noted that this doctrine is not a failsafe, as Tennessee law still prohibits a medical malpractice claim if the discovery of such negligence is more than three years from the date it occurred.  This leads to another reason why you need to retain an experienced Memphis medical malpractice attorney because another exception to this prohibition is where the health care provider(s) hid, concealed, lied about, or otherwise prevented you from discovering your injury.  If there is any fraudulent concealment of the medical malpractice, our attorneys can fight for your claim to estop—or prevent—the defendant from using the statute of limitations as a defense.

To better illustrate the complexities of this law, take the example of a medical malpractice claim which occurs on 1/1/00.  Generally, the patient has until 1/1/01 to commence a claim.  If the patient first discovers his or her injury on 1/1/02, the claim—which normally would have been barred—is saved by the discovery rule.  However, if the patient first discovers his or her injury on 1/2/03, the medical malpractice claim will still be prohibited unless there is fraudulent concealment by the health care provider.

Here at Bailey & Greer, PLLC, we understand the complexities of medical malpractice claims and the multiple exceptions to the statute of limitations.  Our law firm’s prior case results prove our attorneys have compassionately and competently represented many individuals who have been harmed by the negligence of others.  If you or a loved one may have been injured by a negligent health care provider, please contact us immediately.  Tennessee has one of the strictest statute of limitations periods in the United States and it is important we move quickly to protect your rights.  Please speak with one of our experienced Memphis medical malpractice attorneys and schedule your free consultation by calling 901-680-9777.

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