The Statute of Limitations
An injury that involves negligent care and treatment from a doctor and/or hospital will generally fall under medical malpractice. Tennessee medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within a specific time period. This time period is known as the statute of limitations. Additionally, Tennessee law requires that the medical providers be given 60 days advanced written notice before a lawsuit can be filed. The written notice must meet specific requirements, but if done correctly, the statute of limitations is extended 120 days. The written notice must be given within the statute of limitations, which is typically one year from the date of injury.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
The safest way to proceed in a medical malpractice case is to assume that the statute of limitations is one year. If circumstances do not allow for this, there may be exceptions that you can rely upon. In circumstances where the injury is not discovered at the time the medical malpractice is committed, the statute of limitations is one year from the date you discover or should have discovered the medical malpractice. This is known as the "discovery rule." For instance, if a doctor performing a spinal fusion surgery operates on the wrong disc and you do not become aware of the mistake until two months after the operation, the statute of limitations may be extended for two months. Another exception to the general rule is when the injured patient is a minor or is mentally incapacitated. Under these circumstances, the statute of limitations can be extended until one year after the minor reaches the age of 18 or one year from the date of competency.
The Statute of Repose
The exceptions listed above are subject to the statute of repose, which acts as an absolute deadline for the filing of a medical malpractice case. The statute of repose for medical malpractice lawsuits is three years from the date of injury. The statute of repose bars lawsuits filed after three years regardless of the discovery of injury, age, or mental incapacity of the patient. For example, in the case of a child birth injury, the parents or guardian of the child have until the child's third birthday to send written notice to the medical providers, and then must file a lawsuit within 120 days of the child's birthday .
Exceptions to the Statute of Repose
The only two exceptions to the statute of repose are if the negligent medical provider fraudulently conceals his or her wrongdoing or if the case involves an instrument left inside a patient and the patient is unaware. Under these circumstances, the three year statute of repose does not apply and the medical malpractice lawsuit can be initiated, beginning with the written notice provision, within one year from the date of discovery.