Your Knoxville Medical Malpractice Case: The Basics

A new baby is almost always an occasion for celebration and joy, but something went wrong (or was done wrong!) in the delivery room at a local Knoxville hospital. What should've been a magical moment becomes a tormenting experience as your little Jackie is rushed to an incubator with IV tubes sticking out of his tiny arms. The extra medical treatments now required aren't your fault, so who's going to pay for them? What about the horror you suffered as the mother? Malpractice is more common than one might think, which is why FindLaw has created this general guide to typical Knoxville medical malpractice cases.

Medical Negligence

Medical malpractice lawsuits most typically are based on a claim for medical negligence. Medical negligence occurs when a healthcare profession fails to act as a reasonably competent professional under the circumstances. These suits take a variety of forms, for example the failure to diagnose the patient correctly, an unreasonable delay in treatment, or improperly treating the patient.

Proving medical negligence is complicated and technical, and reliance on a medical expert in the applicable field is pretty much essential to victory. First, you must demonstrate how a reasonable competent healthcare professional should've acted under the circumstances. This hypothetical doctor's conduct is called the standard of care. Then you must point out exactly how your doctor failed to abide by the generally accepted standard of care in your case, and how these deficiencies caused your injuries.

Time Limits

The statute of limitations in medical malpractice actions is one year (section 29-26-116) following the date of the incident, or one year from the date of the discovery of the injury. However, in no event may a medical malpractice action be brought more than three years after the date of the negligent act. For claims involving the insertion of foreign objects or fraud/concealment, actions must be brought within one year after the wrongful act is, or should have been, discovered.

For minor patients, the statute of limitations begins to run on a minor's eighteenth birthday. For medical malpractice cases resulting in wrongful death, the wrongful death claim must be brought within one year of the date of the death.

The Defendants

You can sue the doctor on an individual basis, but why stop there? Lawyers typically rope in as many defendants as possible to maximize your recovery. In medical negligence cases the best candidate is the hospital where the doctor was employed.

The hospital can be sued under two theories. First, the doctrine of "respondeat superior" provides that an employer is responsible for the tortious action of an employee acting within the scope of his or her employment. Second, the hospital can also be sued independently under the "corporate negligence" doctrine, if, for example, the hospital fails to maintain sanitary conditions, fail to screen employees for proper credentials, or improperly discharge a patient.

Alternatively, you may have a products liability lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company that created a medicine with unreasonably dangerous side effects that you were not made aware of, or against the company that designed or manufactured a defective medical device.

Informed Consent

If you dive on top of someone you can be held liable for battery. However, if the people you dove on consented to the contact, by say crowd surfing at the Thompson–Boling Arena, there can be no lawsuit.

Similarly, doctors cannot slice you up or pump you full of drugs without receiving your consent to the treatment first. However, the medical field is full of specialized knowledge, so the doctor must inform the patient of all the potential risks and alternatives involved in any procedure before obtaining the patient's "informed consent" to proceed. There are three general components to informed consent:

  • a disclosure informing the patient all the risks, benefits and alternatives of the treatment;
  • comprehension of the disclosure by the patient, and;
  • a voluntary (non-coerced) waiver or "release" executed by the patient.

How to Begin Your Suit

Your personal injury lawsuit begins when you file a complaint at your local courthouse. A complaint briefly describes the injury causing incident, names the parties involved and requests compensation. Alternatively, instead of relying on our own limited lawyering skills you should consider scheduling a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney. Medical malpractice attorneys almost always work on a contingency fee basis, which means they are paid a percentile of your settlement. Yes, that means they don't get paid until you win.

You can file your lawsuit at the City-County Building at 400 Main St. If your case is worth $25,000 or less you should file with the General Sessions Court, while if your case is worth more you should file with the Circuit Court.

Damages

The most straightforward damage calculation comes from economic damages, which represent the unfair financial costs associated with the injury. In medical malpractice cases, economic damages typically include medical bills and loss of income from inability to work.

The more subjective damage calculation comes from non-economic damages, which compensate you for the pain and suffering you've endured as a result of the injury. Non-economic damages are difficult to quantify, but juries generally consider pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.

However, the Tennessee legislature acted to prevent juries from going overboard by enacting the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011 which placed an upper limit, or "cap," on the total amount of non-economic damages that can be awarded in any given medical malpractice case. In Tennessee, non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases are capped at $750,000 per claim, but the cap increases to $1 million where the defendant's malpractice causes a "catastrophic" injury, such as paralysis, amputation of multiple limbs and certain instances of wrongful death.

If you're stuck in bed until your wounds mend, you might want to check out FindLaw's section on medical malpractice law for more general information on the topic.

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