Doctors are among our most trusted professionals. They help us stay healthy and play a crucial role in our lives. As a patient, you trust that your doctor is going to guide you in the best way possible to treat any ailments or conditions. When you undergo a medical procedure, you trust that you will come out in better shape than you went in.
When this does not happen, and you sustain an injury as a result of an act of negligence, you can make a claim for medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is when a medical professional makes a preventable medical error that causes injury or death. This also covers when a medical professional fails to act and breaches the acceptable standards of care.
While any doctor can make a mistake or act negligently, certain specialties are more prone to lawsuits. The 10 areas that have seen the biggest number of lawsuits on a national scale are:
- General surgery
- Women’s health
- Specialized surgery
- Emergency medicine
Where do most medical malpractice lawsuits get filed?
Interestingly enough, Tennessee is fairly high on the list for medical malpractice lawsuits: #3 on the list of 10 states where most medical malpractice claims are filed. For reference, these are the states with the highest percentage of doctors who have been sued:
- Arizona: 63%
- New York: 66%
- Tennessee: 67%
- Pennsylvania: 68%
- Florida: 69%
- Indiana: 70%
- Illinois: 71%
- Nevada: 73%
- Kentucky: 75%
Should you sue for medical malpractice?
When a medical professional acts in a negligent manner, you have the right to hold that professional – and any other negligent parties – accountable for your injuries and losses. However, it is important to note that not all mistakes will rise to the level of negligence.
For example, if you are undergoing abdominal surgery, there is an associated risk of a bowel perforation. You are to be told of this risk going in, because bowel perforations are always a medical emergency. If your surgeon nicks the bowel but fixes the cut immediately, and you suffer no effects or injuries as a result, then you will not have a claim of medical negligence.
However, if the surgeon nicks the bowel and does not discover nor fix the cut, you are at risk of serious injury and illness. Failure to diagnose and treat bowel perforation can lead to severe pain, infection, and tachycardia (rapid heartbeat). There is a real risk of sepsis, which can escalate quickly.
In this case, you will have a strong claim for negligence.
What if I don’t want to sue my doctor because I like him/her?
We understand. We all have doctors we like, too. But just like with a car accident, when you file a medical malpractice claim, you’re filing it against an insurance company. All doctors and hospitals have medical malpractice insurance to shield them personally from lawsuits.
When a medical professional’s negligence is truly egregious, however, it can cost that person his or her license. If, for example, the surgeon was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the surgery, that surgeon will face disciplinary action, which could lead to a loss of license to practice.
How long do I have to file a medical malpractice claim in West Tennessee?
In Tennessee, you generally have one year from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit. You must also keep in mind that Tennessee requires plaintiffs to give a 60-day notice to physicians prior to filing a lawsuit. This means you must make the decision to file at least ten months after the injury occurs.
In some cases, you may have more or less time to file a lawsuit. For example, under the “discovery rule,” if you learn your injuries were the result of medical negligence a few months after you were injured, your statute of limitations can be extended by the amount of time it took to discover the cause of those injuries. If the victim is a child or a person deemed mentally incapacitated, then the statute of limitations can be extended to one year past the age of majority (18) for children, or one year from the date that the person who was incapacitated becomes competent.
Tennessee has a statute of repose for three years. This means that you only have three years in total from the date of your injury to file a claim. So, if you are a victim of medical negligence and do not discover the root cause until five years after you are injured, you can be barred from recovering damages.
Finally, if it is determined that your doctor attempted to cover up his or her mistakes, or left an instrument inside of your body during a procedure, the statute of repose becomes void. You have one year from the date of discovery to file your medical malpractice lawsuit.
As you can see, there are a lot of contingencies regarding medical negligence claims. If you are unsure whether or not your case qualifies as medical malpractice, call us. We can review your case and let you know your options moving forward.
Common causes of medical malpractice
Medical malpractice can happen during any procedure or interaction with a medical professional. The most common medical malpractice claims involve:
- Diagnostic errors
- Medication errors
- Anesthesia errors
- Surgical errors
- Labor and delivery errors
- Failure to read medical charts
- Failure to monitor the patient
- Failure to update health records
- Failure to communicate with the patient
- Failure to communicate with the rest of the medical team
The Memphis medical malpractice attorneys from Bailey & Greer, PLLC understand that this can be a scary time, and you may be apprehensive to go up against a doctor, hospital, or other medical facilities. However, we believe that anyone who has been harmed by another’s negligence deserves the chance to live a better life. Do not hesitate to contact our offices in Memphis and Jackson by calling 901-475-7434 or completing our contact form. The initial consultation is free.
As founder of Bailey & Greer, R. Sadler Bailey has battled his fair share of insurance giants and wrongdoers and has achieved numerous multimillion-dollar results for the victims of catastrophic injuries and their families. What’s more, he has been involved in more than 40 appellate court decisions affecting Tennessee personal injury law, including many landmark appearances before the Tennessee Supreme Court.
Read more about R. Sadler Bailey