What is the deadline for filing a medical malpractice case in Tennessee?
The short answer to this question is one year plus one hundred-twenty days. But the issue is really more complicated than that.
Generally, medical malpractice cases must be initiated within one year of the incident which causes the injury. For example, if a doctor performs surgery on the wrong arm of the patient, the patient will have one year from the date of the surgery to initiate a claim. A new Tennessee law requires that medical providers be given 60 days advance notice in the proper form before being sued for medical malpractice. The notice must be given before the expiration of the time limit for initiating the claim, so generally within one year. If proper notice is given, the deadline for filing the lawsuit is then automatically extended by 120 days.
Medical malpractice claims are subject to what is known as a “statute of repose.” A statute of repose imposes an absolute time limit for bringing a claim regardless of the age of the injured person or when the person became aware of an injury. The statute of repose for bringing a medical malpractice claim is three years. This means that a medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed within three years of the date of the malpractice, regardless of the age or competency of the injured person or when the injury is discovered.
Certain exceptions apply to these general rules such as instances when an instrument or sponge is left inside the patient and the patient is unaware. In this instance, the time limit for bringing the lawsuit is one year from the date of discovery.
There is lots of room for error here, and all lawyers would tell you that determining the deadline for filing suit in a particular case is very complicated. Therefore, the safest course of action is to contact an attorney as soon as possible if you believe you may have a claim. Unless a lawyer with knowledge of all of the relevant facts advises you to the contrary, you should assume that you have one year from the date of the incident causing you an injury to give the formal notice of medical malpractice claim described above. In the malpractice resulted in the death of the patient, you should assume that proper notice must be given within one year of the injury that later caused the death unless a lawyer with knowledge of all of the relevant facts advises you that you have more time.
John Day represents personal injury victims and families of wrongful death victims. He has represented medical malpractice victims since 1981. He is board-certified as a civil trial specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and, in fact, served as President of the organization. He is an elected member of the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers. His book, "Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law," is used by judges and lawyers across Tennessee to further their understanding of personal injury and wrongful death law in Tennessee. In 2009, Best Lawyers named John "Best Personal Injury Lawyer" for Nashville; he was the first recipient of that award. Best Lawyers also named John as "Best Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Nashville" for 2010. John does not charge for an initial consultation and accepts medical malpractice cases on a contingent fee basis. You can reach him by telephone at 615.742.4880 or by email by clicking here.