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Malpractice Reforms Cause Problems for Tennessee Victims

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Medical malpractice reforms that became effective in 2008 have had a significant impact on victims in Tennessee. The changes have resulted in a drop of approximately 36 percent of malpractice suits in the state, falling from 584 in 2008 to 374 by 2012. While advocates for the reform claim that the new rules help reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits that congest Tennessee courts and make medical care more accessible to patients in the community, medical malpractice lawyers in the state paint an entirely different picture.

According to Tennessee malpractice lawyer Tony Seaton, "The changes interfere with individuals' rights to access the courts and have made it difficult for injured victims in the state to hold negligent doctors and other healthcare providers accountable for their actions." Seaton and numerous other medical malpractice lawyers in Tennessee claim that these complicated cases have become even more difficult due to recently implemented caps on damages, more stringent filing rules and the 60-day notification period that is now required before a lawsuit can even begin. Additionally, reform to the certifying process has made it so that medical malpractice lawyers are required to prove that a medical expert has evaluated the claim and agrees that the health care provider is responsible for harming the claimant. Most other types of tort lawsuits in Tennessee do not have these strict rules.

The American Medical Association (AMA) reports that nearly half of the 50 states across the nation have enacted laws which place some type of cap on non-economic damages in malpractice cases, with most limits ranging between $250,000 and $750,000. These types of damages, which are often difficult to measure in monetary terms, include things like pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment. Currently, the cap on non-economic damages for medical malpractice suits in Tennessee is $750,000.

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