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What Is the Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations in Tennessee?

November 2, 2022

The Tennessee medical malpractice statute of limitations is the law governing how long patients can file a claim if they suffer injury due to medical negligence. If you fail to file a lawsuit within the time limit, you will lose your right to compensation for medical malpractice.

A medical malpractice lawyer at The Haynes Firm can review your case for FREE and ensure that your claim is filed on time. Please call 423-928-0165 today to speak to an attorney at our office in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Understanding Tennessee’s Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

In Tennessee, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is generally 1 year from the date of the injury. However, in the event that a medical negligence injury is not discovered within this 1-year period, the patient may be able to bring a claim up to 1 year after the discovery of the injury.

This is known as the “discovery rule.” Given that the effects of a medical error often take more than a year to become apparent, the discovery rule provides a much-needed extension for patients to pursue legal action for medical malpractice.

How Does the Discovery Rule Work in Medical Malpractice Claims?

The date of discovery is the date that a patient “knows or in the exercise of reasonable care and diligence should know that an injury has been sustained” (see Tennessee Annotated Code § 29-26-116). Depending on the circumstances, this could be one of the following:

  • The date that the patient had sufficient knowledge of an injury caused by negligent medical care
  • The date that an injury, complication, etc. is actually diagnosed

For example, say that a doctor fails to diagnose a patient with cancer that is in its early stages. Two years later, the cancer is correctly diagnosed but it is too far advanced to be treatable.

The date of discovery in this example would likely be considered the day the cancer was diagnosed. If investigation of the patient’s medical records shows that the first doctor failed to order the indicated tests that would have caught the cancer in time, the patient would have up to 2 years from the date of diagnosis to pursue compensation for medical malpractice.

Limits on the Discovery Rule

Although the discovery rule extends the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits against negligent health care providers, the right to legal action doesn’t last forever. Section 29-26-116(a)(3) of the Tennessee Code states the following:

“In no event shall any [medical malpractice] action be brought more than three (3) years after the date on which the negligent act or omission occurred except where there is fraudulent concealment on the part of the defendant, in which case the action shall be commenced within one (1) year after discovery that the cause of action exists.”

This law establishes what is known as a statute of repose. With one exception, the statute of repose bars medical malpractice claims after 3 years regardless of the date the injury from a medical error is discovered. The only exception to this harsh result is if the claimant can prove that the provider fraudulently concealed the malpractice, which in most cases is nearly impossible to show.

To prove fraudulent concealment, the patient must present evidence of the following:

  • The doctor or other health care provider had knowledge of a medical error giving rise to liability
  • The provider lied, misled, and/or withheld information from the patient concerning the wrongdoing

Tennessee Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations for Retained Foreign Bodies

If a foreign object (also known as a retained foreign body) is negligently left inside of a patient, Tennessee law only gives the patient 1 year from the date the foreign object is discovered to bring a medical malpractice claim.

Sponges, surgical instruments, and other objects left inside the body can lead to a number of adverse effects, including postoperative infection, damage to tissue and organs, and more.

Unfortunately, Tennessee’s statute of limitations leaves patients with very little time to seek compensation for injury as a result of a retained foreign object. It is in your best interest to speak to a knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.

Get Started on Your Medical Malpractice Claim Today

Medical errors have devastating consequences. Patients may suffer life-altering injuries or worsening health as a result of a health care provider’s negligence. In the most extreme cases, malpractice can even lead to the wrongful death of a patient.

If you fail to take legal action within the Tennessee medical malpractice statute of limitations, you and your family will lose your ability to obtain fair compensation. At The Haynes Firm, we fight for what’s fair. Our lawyers have recovered millions of dollars for clients in medical malpractice claims. We understand the complexities of medical malpractice litigation, and we know that time is of the essence in every case.

Pursuing compensation for losses incurred due to the negligence of a health care provider isn’t easy, but it is right. Contact The Haynes Firm today to get started on your case.

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