Medical Malpractice in Johnson City, TN

Johnson City, Tennessee is unusual in that it is located within three separate counties: Washington, Carter and Sullivan. It is ranked as one of the ten biggest cities in Tennessee, however, it has also been ranked as one of the top 10 least expensive cities for living in the U.S.A. There are many healthcare options in Johnson City, and if you or a loved one have suffered an injury due to a medical error or neglect, you need to consult with an experienced Johnson City, Tennessee medical malpractice lawyer with the Law Office of Burroughs & Capps.


How a Johnson City, Tennessee Medical Malpractice Lawyer Can Help You.

Doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers spend years and countless hours continuously learning how to care for the sick and injured. The vast majority of medical professionals are hard-working and dedicated to caring for patients and to saving lives. Still, medical professionals are human, and just like truck drivers, airline pilots and careless drivers, they often make mistakes. Medical mistakes or errors caused by medical negligence or malpractice can be devastating. In fact, the National Academy of Sciences and Johns Hopkins University research shows that between 98,000 and 251,000 deaths occur in the U.S. each year due to preventable medical errors, and countless more patients are severely injured. Patients injured by medical mistakes – more commonly referred to as medical malpractice – often need additional, expensive medical care, and their injuries have a lasting impact on their physical and emotional health, finances and family.

If you or a family member have been injured during medical treatment, you must have your treatment and injury investigated and evaluated by an experienced Tennessee medical malpractice attorney to determine if you have a viable medical malpractice claim. Determining whether medical negligence or medical malpractice has occurred is a complex legal and medical question, and it can be a very time-consuming and expensive to process.

The Johnson City, Tennessee medical malpractice lawyers at the Law Office of Burroughs & Capps have extensive experience in investigating, evaluating and litigating Tennessee medical malpractice cases. When you call with a potential medical malpractice claim, our attorneys collect your medical records; have the records reviewed and summarized by a physician or nurse; and then work with a wide variety of expert physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to verify key information about your potential case. In order to properly advise or represent you, they must verify key factors in medical malpractice cases such as:
• Your overall health prior to injury;
• The type of treatment or procedure you expected to receive;
• The level of care or “standard of care” normally expected for the procedure or treatment you received in your community or geographic area;
• How and why you were injured;
• Whether your injury is actually a known risk, or foreseeable bad outcome, for the procedure or treatment you received;
• Other malpractice claims against the doctor, nurse, hospital or other healthcare providers involved in your care; and
• The extent of your injury and your physical, emotional and financial damages.

These factors must be reviewed carefully because not every bad outcome during medical treatment constitutes medical malpractice. In fact, Tennessee medical malpractice law generally recognizes the practice of medicine as an “art” rather than as an exact science. Therefore, some latitude is given to medical practitioners in how they choose to treat patients’ needs. Thus, if your doctor or other medical professional provides care according to the standard for such care in your particular community and/or within the accepted standard of his or her medical specialty (i.e. orthopedic, internist, chiropractor, etc.) he or she may not be liable for a bad outcome.

Physicians and medical professionals are also not generally liable for known risks or side effects which occur during medical treatment or procedures. For example, there is a known risk of contracting certain infections during surgery. Surgery resulting in an infection is certainly a bad outcome, but because it is a known risk, it is generally not considered to be caused by medical malpractice.


Tennessee Medical Malpractice Laws- Statute of Limitations -Statute of Repose
Time is of the essence

Over the past decade, the Tennessee legislature passed sweeping legislation, and the Tennessee Supreme Court issued significant opinions which dramatically altered Tennessee medical malpractice laws, claims and recoverable damages. The Legislature passed the Tennessee Healthcare Liability Act T.C.A. § 29-26-101-210 which created a list of complicated deadlines to meet and expensive reports to obtain before a medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed. The Tennessee Supreme Court rendered case opinions which shortened the statute of limitations for minors injured by medical malpractice to only three (3) years from the date the malpractice occurred (Minors have until the age of 19 to bring suits for damages in other types of personal injury cases).

The Tennessee Supreme Court also reconfirmed that adults only have a one-year (1) statute of limitations (SOL) in which to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. That Tennessee medical malpractice statute of limitations begins to run from the date the malpractice actually occurred – or if the date is not obvious – one year from the date the patient discovered – or had reason to believe – that a problem existed or malpractice had occurred. No matter when a patient believes malpractice occurred, Tennessee’s statute of repose states that no medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed more than three (3) years after the actual date the malpractice occurred, or should have been discovered. The only exceptions are where: 1) a physician or other medical provider commits fraud by intentionally hiding or withholding information showing that medical malpractice occurred and 2) where a foreign object – such as a sponge, clip, tube or other object -is negligently left in a patient’s body and leads to injury. Under both such exceptions, the patient would have an additional one (1) year in which to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit after discovering the fraud or foreign object.

Due to Tennessee’s pre-suit requirements and short statute of limitations and statute of repose, it is imperative that anyone with a potential medical malpractice claim immediately seek advice from an experienced Johnson City, Tennessee medical malpractice lawyer like those at the Law Office of Burroughs & Capps.

Pre-Suit Requirements

The Johnson City, Tennessee medical malpractice lawyers with the Law Office of Burroughs & Capps need as much time as possible to review, prepare and file a legitimate medical malpractice case. This is due the time needed to collect and review the relevant medical records and due to the complex and expensive pre-suit requirements for filing a malpractice lawsuit.

Depending on the nature of the alleged medical malpractice and the extent of a patient’s injury, medical records may need to be collected and reviewed from numerous medical providers. These records may consist of hundreds, or even several thousand, pages. If after reviewing the records there appears to be a valid case, the Tennessee Healthcare Liability Act requires that before any lawsuit can be filed, an injured patient must do the following:

Send written medical malpractice Notice Letters to every potential doctor, nurse, hospital or other healthcare provider who the injured patient intends to file a lawsuit against.

Enclose with the medical malpractice Notice Letters a list of doctors, nurses, hospitals or other healthcare providers to be sued and provide each of them a HIPAA-compliant medical authorization allowing each one to obtain the patient’s medical records from all listed medical providers.

The medical malpractice Notice Letters must contain certain information about the patient, and they must be sent via certified mail or hand-delivered. If mailed, each medical malpractice Notice Letter must have a matching Certificate of Mailing that can only be issued by the U.S. Postal Service.

A copy of all medical malpractice Notice Letters, HIPAA authorizations, certified mail return receipts, and Certificates of Mailing must be kept and attached to the Complaint initiating the medical malpractice lawsuit.

If all medical malpractice Notice Letters are properly issued, mailed and/or hand-delivered, the patient’s statute of limitations date will be extended by one hundred twenty (120) days. Once medical malpractice Notice Letters are sent, the patient must wait at least sixty (60) days before filing a lawsuit.

If any of the detailed steps related to sending medical malpractice Notice Letters are missed, or the patient files suit sooner than sixty (60) days from the date notice is given, a trial court can, and likely will, summarily dismissed the case once filed.

Finally, before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, the patient or his/her lawyer, must have all relevant medical records of the patient reviewed by one or more qualified medical experts. To qualify as a medical expert for Tennessee malpractice cases, a medical expert must have, within the year prior to the alleged medical malpractice, practiced medicine in the same position and/or specialty as the doctor, nurse or other persons alleged to be sued by the patient (i.e. cardiologist, nurse practitioner, anesthesiologist) and practiced in Tennessee or a state contiguous with Tennessee.

After reviewing all available medical records, each required medical expert must provide to the patient or his/her lawyer a signed report stating that, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty (a greater than 50% chance), medical negligence or malpractice occurred which led to the patient being injured. Qualified medical experts are quite difficult to locate, and obtaining their reports can be very expensive costing from $1,500 to $7,500 each depending on the amount of records to be reviewed and the complexity of the issues involved.

The medical expert reports must be in the possession of the patient and his/her lawyer at the time the lawsuit is filed. The lawyer filing suit must verify under oath that he or she obtained the required expert reports by attaching a Certificate of Good Faith to the Complaint stating that the reports were obtained, but the reports are not given to the defendant medical providers at that time. The reports are only disclosed if the lawsuit is later dismissed, or thrown out by the trial court, due to a lack of evidence proving malpractice. If the medical malpractice lawsuit is dismissed, and it is later found that the lawyer or patient did not actually have the reports, or the reports were inadequate, when the Certificate of Good Faith and Complaint were filed, the patient and lawyer can be sanctioned by the court. Such sanctions can include being forced to pay the defendant medical professionals’ attorney fees and litigation costs. If a Tennessee attorney is found to have filed three (3) medical malpractice cases without having obtained the required expert reports, he or she can be reprimanded or disbarred by the Tennessee Supreme Court Board of Professional Responsibility.

Given the detailed nature, and high cost, of the medical malpractice pre-suit requirements, it is difficult and dangerous for non-attorneys to represent themselves in malpractice lawsuits. Because each requirement is very detailed and time consuming, the Johnson City, Tennessee medical malpractice lawyers at the Law Office of Burroughs & Capps encourage all potential victims of medical negligence to contact the firm as soon as possible to have the facts of their potential case reviewed. Otherwise, there simply may not be time to give proper notice and file a case before the running of a patient’s statute of limitations.

Standard of Care – Bad Outcomes versus Medical Neglect

The medical malpractice lawyers at the Law Office of Burroughs & Capps review hundreds of potential medical malpractice cases each year. In the vast majority of such reviews our lawyers determine that patients suffered a bad outcome as opposed to an injury from medical malpractice. Although the United States has an excellent healthcare system and many highly qualified physicians and other medical personnel, patients who get optimal care often have bad results.

Said another way, patients can receive medical care which meets the level, or standard of care, for such treatment in the local, or similar, community, but the result be less than hoped. Some examples are a successful surgery with properly cleaned instrumentation and proper infection control measures in which a patient still contracts a known potential infection (a known risk of the surgery); a properly performed neck surgery resulting in an injured vocal cord (a known risk of the surgery); properly performed laser eye surgery resulting in chronic dry-eye or visual impairment (known risks of the surgery).

In contrast, medical neglect – and therefore medical malpractice only occurs where a doctor or other medical professional renders care that falls below the standard of care for treatment in the local community, and that substandard care caused, or substantially contributes to, an injury. For example: a physician orders that a patient receive a medication which, based on reported history, the patient is severely allergic to leading to a severe respiratory injury; a physician fails to perform proper testing, such as an EKG and blood enzyme tests, on an ER patient suffering with classic symptoms of a heart attack. The man is discharged and soon dies from a heart attack; a nurse leaves an elderly patient, who is unstable and a known fall risk, alone in a tile shower. The patient falls and suffers a hip fracture.

In each of these examples, the local standard for the treatment each patient was to receive was violated because the medical provider failed to meet the basic requirements for care. In each case the failure to follow the standard caused a significant injury. These were not anticipated and/or potential bad outcomes but were avoidable errors.

Is It Medical Malpractice or General Negligence?

If you or a loved one have been injured while inside a medical facility – even if you were injured by an orderly, janitor or the hospital’s bus driver – you must speak to an experienced Johnson City, Tennessee medical malpractice lawyer like those with the Law Office of Burroughs & Capps to determine if the claim is treated as a medical malpractice claim – and subject to all the medical malpractice pre-suit requirements.

The Tennessee Healthcare Liability Act made many errors and mistakes that occur on the premises of medical facilities also subject to medical malpractice laws – including pre-suit medical malpractice Notice Letters and expert reports – even where no doctor or nurse rendered care or made and error or mistake that injured the patient.

Prior to the Healthcare Liability Act, if a hospital food service worker dropped food on the hospital floor which caused a fall with injury, or if an orderly injured a discharged patient while pushing her in a wheelchair to a waiting car, such claims fell outside of medical malpractice laws. They were considered to be general negligence or even premises liability claims. Those claims could be filed and litigated completely outside of Tennessee medical malpractice laws. Under Tennessee’s new Healthcare Liability Act, hospital falls injuries, wheelchair injuries, and other patient transport injuries can, and likely will, be subject to Tennessee medical malpractice laws and all the expensive and time-consuming Tennessee medical malpractice pre-suit requirements including Tennessee medical malpractice Notice letters and medical expert reports.

If a patient files a lawsuit for such accidents without following the pre-suit requirements, the cases will be quickly dismissed by the trial court with little hope of a successful appeal. Only experienced Johnson City, Tennessee medical malpractice lawyers like those at the Law Office of Burroughs & Capps can research and determine whether a given accident and injury on or near a medical facility must be treated as a medical malpractice claim.