Tennessee Medical Malpractice Claims – What Must Be Proved?

A Tennessee medical malpractice lawyer must prove the following things to prove a medical malpractice (now called a health care liability) case in Tennessee:

1.  The standard of care for the health care provider.  For example, if the claim is that a family doctor failed to timely diagnose an infection, the patient’s lawyer must prove what a family doctor should do when presented with the information available to the doctor at the time of the alleged failure to diagnose the infection.  The standard of care must be proved by another doctor of the same or similar specialty, and that doctor must practice medicine in Tennessee or a state adjoining Tennessee.

2.  The failure of the health care provider to follow the standard of care.  Thus, using the same example, the patient’s lawyer must demonstrate that the doctor did not comply with the standard of care, that is, that the doctor either did something the doctor should not have done or failed to do something the doctor should have done.

3.  The failure to follow the standard of care must more likely than not have caused an injury or death that would not have otherwise occurred.  This is often the most challenging part of a medical malpractice case, and the short-hand reference to this part of the case is the "so what" question.  It makes no difference if a doctor or other health care provider made a mistake unless the mistake made some difference in the outcome.  For example, in a failure to diagnose an infection case, the patient’s lawyer must prove that a timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment would have saved the patient’s life or would have resulted in less serious injury to the patient.  This too requires evidence from one or more medical doctors.

As you can see, health care liability actions are largely dependent on medical evidence – there are very few types of cases that can be proved without testimony from one or more doctors, and most cases require at least two doctors.  This is not to say that the law is not important in these cases – it is – but the cases rise and fall on the ability of the lawyer to find honest medical professionals who believe that what the health care provider did was wrong and the the wrong caused an injury or death to a patient.



John Day represents personal injury victims and families of wrongful death victims in Tennessee health care liability claims. 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 personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingent fee basis. You can reach him by telephone at 615.742.4880 or by email by clicking here

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