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Tennessee Medical Malpractice FAQs

Your questions answered by a knowledgeable and experienced East Tennessee medical malpractice plaintiff’s lawyer

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions we hear at Brezina Law, PLLC, as we help patients and the families of patients who were injured or killed due to medical negligence in Knoxville or East Tennessee. If you have other questions or need immediate assistance with a health care liability claim, please call Brezina Law, PLLC, at 865-500-3121. Your call is free, and we won’t charge any fee until after we are successful in your case.

Q. What does it take to be a medical “expert” in Tennessee medical malpractice cases?

To qualify as a medical expert witness in Tennessee, your witness must:

  • Hold a medical license in Tennessee or a bordering state;
  • Be licensed in a profession or specialty area which makes the expert’s testimony relevant to the case at hand; and
  • Be licensed during the year preceding the date when the injury or negligence occurred.

The court can waive these requirements if the appropriate witness would otherwise not be available. At Brezina Law, PLLC, we work with a network of medical experts in many fields. In addition, attorney Michael Brezina works closely with highly respected physician and attorney, Dr. Tucker Montgomery, in many medical malpractice cases.

Q. What kinds of compensation can I recover for medical malpractice?

A. Financial compensation for an injury, known in the law as “compensatory damages,” includes both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are actual economic losses incurred by the injured patient. These include the costs of reasonable and necessary medical care to deal with the harm done, rehabilitation services, custodial care if the negligence caused long-term or permanent disability, loss of services, loss of earned income and loss of earning capacity.

Non-economic damages refer to compensation for harm, such as the victim’s pain and suffering, scarring or disfigurement, disability, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium (intimate marital relations) due to the injury inflicted by the doctor or hospital. Non-economic damages are capped in Tennessee at $750,000, or $1 million if the injury was catastrophic. These limits don’t apply if the malpractice was intentional or resulted from the medical provider’s intoxication by alcohol or drugs, or if the doctor or hospital tried to hide their mistakes from the patient.

Q. Can I get punitive damages for medical malpractice?

A. As opposed to compensatory damages which are meant to compensate you for the harm done to you, punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for especially bad behavior. In Tennessee, punitive damages are limited to cases where the defendant acted recklessly, knowingly, maliciously, or intentionally. In addition, your case for punitive damages has to be proven by “clear and convincing evidence,” which is harder to prove than your case for compensatory damages, which only needs to be proven by a “preponderance of the evidence.”

Punitive damages are hard to prove in most personal injury cases, and they are especially rare in medical malpractice cases. Examples of conduct that might justify punitive damages include a doctor who performs surgery while intoxicated, a doctor who performs an operation that the doctor knows he or she is incompetent to perform, or a doctor who performs an unnecessary surgery with the intent to defraud insurance or Medicare.

Tennessee law places a cap on punitive damages at the greater of $500,000 or double the amount of compensatory damages awarded. This cap has been held unconstitutional by a Federal Court interpreting Tennessee law, but the Tennessee Supreme Court has not directly ruled on the matter, so the constitutionality of the punitive damages cap in Tennessee remains unclear.

Q. How long do I have to file a medical malpractice claim?

A. The standard deadline to file a lawsuit based on a personal injury in Tennessee is one year, and this one-year statute of limitations applies to health care liability actions as well. However, special rules apply to medical malpractice claims that don’t apply to other personal injury claims. For instance, you might not discover the malpractice at the moment it happens. In these cases, you have one year from the date you discover the injury, up to three years from the negligent act or omission. If the doctor or hospital tried to hide their mistake from you, you have one year from the date of discovery no matter how long after the event. This exception also applies if doctors negligently leave a foreign object in your body after surgery; you have one year from the date of discovery to file a claim, regardless of when the mistake happened.

Whenever you suspect you were harmed by medical negligence, contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. In Knoxville and East Tennessee, call Brezina Law, PLLC, at 865-500-3121. There is no fee until after we are successful in recovering compensation for you.

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