Medical Malpractice

Tennessee Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Filing Requirements

By David Goguen, J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law

In Tennessee, a medical malpractice lawsuit is a complicated undertaking, especially when compared with other types of civil cases. For one thing, the medical and legal issues common to these kinds of lawsuits are complex, and most cases include the introduction of extensive treatment records as well as the detailed testimony of numerous medical experts.

But a Tennessee medical malpractice plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) must also comply with certain procedural rules right at the outset (in addition to filing the complaint, which sets out the allegations against the defendant health care provider). These safeguards have been put in place as part of tort reform efforts, which seek to discourage the filing of frivolous injury-related lawsuits. In this article, we'll summarize some of the most important of these rules in Tennessee, including the "certificate of good faith" requirement for most medical malpractice lawsuits.

The "Certificate of Good Faith" Requirement for Tennessee Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

In any Tennessee medical malpractice lawsuit where the testimony of a medical expert is required (which means most such lawsuits filed in the state), the plaintiff (usually through his or her attorney) must file a "certificate of good faith" alongside the initial complaint (that's the document that starts the lawsuit).

This certificate must state that the plaintiff (or the plaintiff's attorney) has consulted with one or more medical experts who have themselves provided a written statement confirming that:

  • they are competent and qualified to express an expert opinion under Tennessee law, and
  • they believe, based on a review of the medical records and other evidence, that there is a "good faith basis" to bring the medical malpractice lawsuit.

This is a somewhat simplified explanation of the "certificate of good faith" requirement, for the sake of brevity. The full details are spelled out at Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-122.

Failure to file the required certificate of good faith could result in the dismissal of your medical malpractice lawsuit, unless it's shown that the certificate couldn't be filed because the defendant health care provider failed to provide requested medical records in a timely fashion, or some other "extraordinary cause" is shown.

(Learn more: Do I Have a Medical Malpractice Case?)

Giving "Notice" to Health Care Providers Under Tennessee Law

Tennessee law also requires a medical malpractice plaintiff (or the plaintiff's attorney or other "agent") to give written notice of his or her potential claim to each health care provider that will be named as a defendant in the lawsuit, at least 60 days before filing the complaint in court.

This requirement can be found at Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121, which also details what information needs to be included in the written notice (include the patient's information, the attorney's information, a compliant medical records release authorization, a list of all care providers receiving notice, and so on).

More Information on Tennessee Medical Malpractice Cases

A Tennessee medical malpractice plaintiff also needs to be aware of -- and be in compliance with -- the lawsuit filing deadline set by the Tennessee Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits.

For more details on filing requirements and anything else related to a Tennessee medical malpractice case -- and of course, for legal advice that's tailored to your specific situation -- it could be time to talk with an experienced Tennessee medical malpractice lawyer.

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