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What is Considered Medical Malpractice?

December 16, 2023

Medical malpractice injures and kills thousands of people in the United States every year. But what, exactly, is medical malpractice? And, perhaps more importantly, if you’ve been the victim of medical malpractice, where can you turn for help?

At The Haynes Firm, our Johnson City medical malpractice attorneys have decades of experience helping individuals and families seek justice. We have the resources, experience, and tenacity needed to build solid medical malpractice claims—and we are prepared to take viable cases as far as necessary to help ensure justice is served.

If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed through medical malpractice, please call The Haynes Firm at (423) 928-0165 for a FREE case review right away. Our Johnson City medical malpractice attorneys welcome clients from all nearby areas of Tennessee.

What Is Medical Malpractice

In the simplest terms, medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider fails to adhere to accepted standards of care and harms a patient as a result. It represents a significant breach in the unspoken contract between healthcare professionals and patients.

Medical malpractice constitutes a clear deviation from the accepted norms and practices in medicine. It’s unlikely to be related to things like unfavorable outcomes or accepted surgical risks. However, when you or someone you love suffers an injury while under the care of a healthcare professional, it’s a good idea to speak with a medical malpractice attorney to learn if you have the right to file a lawsuit.

Medical Malpractice Claims We Handle

Cases handled by our experienced Johnson City medical malpractice attorneys include:

Birth Injury

Birth injuries occur during childbirth and can affect both the mother and the newborn. Examples include injuries from improper use of birth-assisting tools, failure to perform a cesarean section on time, and not adequately monitoring the baby’s oxygen levels, leading to conditions like cerebral palsy.

Surgical Mistakes

Surgical errors can range from operating on the wrong body part to leaving surgical instruments inside a patient’s body. Other examples include performing unnecessary surgery, anesthesia errors, or failing to manage postoperative care properly, leading to infections or other complications.

Hospital Negligence

Hospitals are responsible for providing a standard of care that includes proper patient supervision, maintaining sterile environments, and ensuring their staff is adequately trained and licensed. Hospital negligence can manifest in various ways, such as mismanagement of patient records, insufficient staff leading to inadequate patient care, or failure to follow protocols for patient safety.

Medication and Pharmacy Errors

These errors can occur when a patient is given the wrong medication or dosage, either due to a prescribing error by the doctor or a dispensing error by the pharmacy. Such mistakes can lead to severe allergic reactions, drug interactions, or overdoses, causing significant harm or even death.

Failure to Diagnose

Failure to diagnose an illness or disease—like cancer or meningitis— happens all too frequently in both private practices and hospital settings. This can delay critical treatment, leading to a progression of the disease or condition that could have been managed or cured if correctly diagnosed earlier.

Pediatric Medical Malpractice

Pediatric medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider fails to deliver the standard of care expected in pediatric medicine, resulting in harm to a child. Pediatric patients, due to their unique physiological and developmental characteristics, require specialized care and attention. When this care falls short, it can lead to serious consequences.

VA Malpractice

Veterans relying on VA medical facilities often face distinct challenges, sometimes encountering substandard care that can result in severe health repercussions. Given the unique health concerns faced by veterans, especially those related to service-related injuries and mental health, the impact of such malpractice can be profound.

How Can I Tell If I Have a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Determining whether you have a valid medical malpractice claim involves a careful evaluation of both your injuries and the circumstances leading to them. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can play a key role in this process by:

  • Reviewing Medical Records. Lawyers often work with medical experts to scrutinize medical documents for signs of malpractice. This can include reviewing the procedures followed, medications prescribed, and the timeline of treatment, looking for inconsistencies or lapses in care.
  • Evaluating the Impact on Health. A critical aspect of a medical malpractice claim is establishing a direct link between the negligence and the resultant harm. This involves assessing the injury’s physical, emotional, and financial impacts on your life.
  • Understanding Legal Precedents and State Laws. An attorney well-versed in Tennessee’s medical malpractice laws will consider relevant legal precedents, statutes of limitations, and potential damage caps when evaluating the viability of a claim.
  • Determining Damages. If negligence is established, the next step is to determine the damages. This includes quantifying the financial impact, like medical bills and lost wages, as well as non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
  • Assessing Settlement Potential vs. Trial. An attorney will also evaluate the likelihood of a successful settlement outside of court versus the need to go to trial. This decision is based on the strength of the evidence, the willingness of the parties to negotiate, and the potential risks and rewards of a trial.

Given the complexities involved in medical malpractice cases, consulting with our experienced Johnson City medical malpractice attorneys can provide much-needed clarity and direction.

How Long do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Claim In Tennessee?

In Tennessee, the statute of limitations for medical negligence claims is generally one year from the date the injury was discovered, but no more than three years from the date of the negligent act (see Tenn. Code § 28-3-104). While there are certain exceptions, including those for minors injured through pediatric malpractice or birth injury, it is always best to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to ensure the best possible outcome.

Medical Malpractice Damage Caps in Tennessee

There is no cap on economic damages in medical malpractice claims in Tennessee. These include medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and anything else with an establishable cost. However, Tennessee does place a cap on non-economic damages in these claims.

For most medical malpractice cases in Tennessee, non-economic damages are capped at $750,000. Non-economic damages refer to the compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and similar losses that do not have a direct financial cost.

In cases of catastrophic loss or injury, the cap on non-economic damages is increased to $1,000,000. Catastrophic injuries include conditions such as paralysis due to a spinal cord injury, amputation of a limb, severe burns, or the wrongful death of a parent leaving minor children. These are situations where the victim’s quality of life is significantly and permanently altered, demanding more compensation for the suffering involved.

Grossly Negligent Conduct and Punitive Damages

The podcast, “Dr. Death” chronicles the medical career of neurosurgeon, Dr. Christopher Duntsch. It is a fascinating and frightening story of how a physician somehow made it through medical school and neurosurgical residency without having the skills, know-how, or temperament (among other needed qualities) to properly perform even the most routine neurosurgical procedures. In the short medical career of Dr. Christopher Duntsch, 33 of 37 patients he operated on were either killed or seriously injured.

Dr. Duntsch’s actions were so outside of the recognized level of minimal competency for a neurosurgeon that he was ultimately criminally prosecuted for the injuries he inflicted upon one of his patients. The criminal prosecution of a physician for poor medical care is not unheard of, but the culpability associated with his actions giving rise to his prosecution and ultimate conviction is truly unparalleled.

Malpractice to this extent is extremely—if not singularly—rare. However, when a healthcare provider’s actions are grossly negligent or intentionally harmful, punitive damages may be awarded. It is important (and fortunate) to note that these damages are rarely sought in Tennessee medical malpractice claims.

The cap on punitive damages in medical malpractice cases in Tennessee is generally two times the total amount of compensatory damages awarded or $500,000, whichever is greater. Compensatory damages are the total sum of the economic and non-economic damages awarded.

The Haynes Firm Is Here to Help

Medical malpractice has been an area of focus for The Haynes Firm since our inception. We have decades of experience helping victims of negligent healthcare providers get justice. Our firm has secured several significant verdicts and settlements for victims of medical malpractice, but we do not rest on past successes. We give 100 percent to every case we take.

Our award-winning lawyers have experience both in and out of the courtroom, enabling them to take your case in the most appropriate direction. Each case is handled on a contingency basis as well, meaning you don’t pay for our services until a positive outcome is achieved.

The Johnson City medical malpractice attorneys at The Haynes Firm are personally and directly involved in the cases we take, remaining available to provide guidance, education, or simply to listen when you need us. When you are injured through medical negligence, we are here to fight for your rights, provide needed support, and help you seek the total compensation you are due.

Contact Us For a FREE Case Review Today

If you or a loved one is facing the aftermath of medical malpractice, The Haynes Firm is here to help. Contact us online or call us today to schedule your FREE case review at our Johnson City office. We serve Jonesborough, Cherokee, and all nearby communities. If your injury prevents travel, one of our medical malpractice attorneys can come to you.

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