When a medical provider – be it a nurse, doctor or some other caregiver – violates the set standards of care and causes an injury, it can be defined as medical malpractice, or medical negligence in some cases. Medical malpractice can come about as a result of an action taken by the medical provider, or by an action NOT taken.
A few examples of medical malpractice include:
- Misdiagnosis of a disease or condition
- Failure to diagnose a disease or medical condition
- Failure to provide appropriate treatment
- Unreasonable delay in treatment
If you or a loved one has been injured at the hands of a doctor, nurse, counselor, psychologist or psychotherapist, you do have grounds under Tennessee law to bring a medical malpractice suit. In order to receive compensation for damages, you must be able to prove the medical malpractice caused damage in some way and that an appropriate dollar amount can be assigned.
In general, there are 3 categories of damages a patient can receive in a medical malpractice case, and include – general, special, and punitive.
General damages can be defined as the patient’s cost of suffering, and include loss of enjoyment of life, physical/mental pain and suffering and loss of future earning potential. By their very nature, these damages cannot have a specific price and vary on a case-by-case basis.
Special damages cover expenses that are easily proven and include medical bills and missed work.
Punitive damages are a separate category since they don’t always apply. In order to qualify for punitive damages, you must be able to prove the doctor was knowingly making a mistake. An example would be a doctor who intentionally leaves a sponge in your body after a surgical procedure as to create a reason for another surgery to remove the sponge.
If the unthinkable happens and the patient dies, the surviving family members do have grounds for a suit. Survival statutes for example allow heirs to collect damages from the initial medical malpractice to the time of death. These damages include about everything from a standard medical malpractice suit, with the exception being damages related to the future, like potential earnings.
Wrongful death statutes are another area of the law that’s applicable in this situation, and are specifically designed to compensate a family for future monetary loss.
Up until last year, there were no limits on the damages that could be awarded in medical malpractice cases.
In 2011 though, Gov. Bill Haslam signed the “Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011,” which in effect placed a cap of $750,000 on non-economic damages (i.e. pain and suffering) and a $500,000 cap on punitive damages.
Also, there is a statute of limitations that applies to medical malpractice cases in Tennessee, which is one year after the date of the event or incident that caused the injury, or one year from the date the injury was discovered. In no case may a patient bring a medical malpractice suit more than three years after the date of the event or incident, except in cases where the defendant conspired to conceal facts of the case.
Gilreath & Associates is Tennessee’s premier medical malpractice law firm serving patients across the Volunteer State who are needlessly injured by a medical provider’s negligence. If you’ve sustained an injury due to an error or negligence, contact us today for a free consultation to determine the best route forward.