Medical negligence can be a particularly tricky type of lawsuit. The victim and their close family will experience pain, suffering, and a great deal of stress during the process, especially when finding the proper care to resolve the issues caused by medical negligence. These cases can drag on for months or even years and can result in substantial expenses. Medical negligence is also very complicated in terms of legalities. Not every medical procedure that goes wrong can be deemed negligent as there is an inherent risk with most medical treatments, so documenting and unraveling all of the facts takes time and the expertise of an experienced medical negligence lawyer. One of the most important points to note is that medical negligence claims must be filed within the time limits stated by the statute of limitations.

What is the Statute of Limitations?

In legal terms, the statute of limitations is the length of time a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit. If they fail to do so within this period of time, they will be unable to do so. The statute of limitations varies from state to state and also depending on the lawsuit type. In terms of medical negligence, the standard statute of limitations in Tennessee is one year from the date the negligence occurred. However, there are a few exceptions that you should be aware of if you intend to file a medical negligence lawsuit.

Date of Discovery Exception

The statute of limitations for medical negligence is usually one year from the date the negligence happened; for example, in the case of a surgical error, the clock starts on the date the surgery was performed. However, in some cases, the negligence may not immediately become apparent. One example might be where a surgical instrument is left in the patient's body and is not discovered until later when it begins to cause problems or is seen on a follow-up scan or X-ray. This means that the victim was not actually aware of the negligence at the time it happened, and the statute of limitations could have expired by the time it was discovered. This is where the date of discovery comes into play. In these cases, where the injury or malpractice was not discovered until sometime later, the countdown clock for the statute of limitations begins on the date of discovery, which is the date the victim became aware that medical negligence had occurred.

Statute of Repose

The date of discovery exception does not give plaintiffs unlimited time to file a medical negligence lawsuit. Under Tennessee law, there is also what is known as the statute of repose. This states that all lawsuits must be filed within three years of the negligent act taking place, regardless of the date of discovery.

Fraudulent Concealment

As previously stated, medical negligence cases can be complex, so it may not come as a surprise that there is another exception to the statute of limitations! Fraudulent concealment refers to cases where the medical provider is aware of the negligence or malpractice but purposefully conceals it from the patient. If this is the case, a lawsuit can be filed up to one year from the date of discovery, even outside the statute of repose.

Exceptions for Minors & Mentally Disabled People

There are special rules regarding negligence cases involving a minor or a mentally disabled individual. In these cases, the victim's parent or guardian will file the lawsuit on their behalf, and this should be done up to one year after the negligence occurred. In the event of medical negligence leading to the wrongful death of a minor, the statute of limitations will not begin until the minor turns eighteen years old.

File Your Lawsuit Swiftly

As you can see, you do not have an unlimited window of opportunity to file a medical malpractice or medical negligence lawsuit. If you, or someone close to you, believe you are the victim of medical negligence, it is wise to start looking for a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. Look for a law firm that has experience in dealing with these kinds of lawsuits so that they will have the skills and knowledge to gather the appropriate information to support your claim. This will help you secure the damages you are entitled to pay for your medical expenses, loss of wages, and other financial losses. Don't delay making your claim, or you may find that the statute of limitations expires, leaving you without any recourse.


Butler, Vines and Babb is a leading law firm in Knoxville, TN, with extensive litigation experience in Medical Malpractice LawBirth Injury LawTrucking Accident LawPersonal Injury Law, and Business Law. Contact us today at or call 865-637-3531.

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