Statute of Limitations

The number one defense to most malpractice cases in the State of Tennessee is NOT the attorney didn’t mess up.

Instead, based on our experience, the number one defense to a legal malpractice case in Tennessee is the statute of limitations. Legal ethics and malpractice law do not control the statute of limitations. This is set by the legislature.

Tennessee has one of the shortest statute of limitations in the country. The statute generally states that a person only has one (1) year from the date of the malpractice to file a suit against their lawyer for malpractice.

Unfortunately, many individuals simply do not discover their attorney’s malpractice within the one year of deadline from the date their attorney made the critical mistake. Tennessee appellate courts have given some relief to such situations by what is commonly called the “discovery” rule. This discovery rule generally will allow a victim to sue their attorney within one year of the date that they knew or should have known that their attorney did something wrong. That word “or” in the prior sentence is generally the sticking point.

You cannot wait until your case is over to sue your lawyer if you believe they have done something wrong. If you do, the statute of limitations may bar your case. Other violations of legal ethics and malpractice law and requirements—no matter how egregious--can’t salvage a late-filed case.

You cannot wait until you have your case heard and decided on appeal. If you do, the statute of limitations may bar your case.

You can’t rely on your attorney “painting a rosy picture” despite their mistake, or your lawyer’s claim that the judge erred, or that your chances are good on appeal. If you do, the statute of limitations may bar your case.

You can’t “wait to give your lawyer a chance to fix things.” A common tactic is that the lawyer will tell his client that they made a mistake, but they believe that they can undo the problem they created. Most clients want to believe in their lawyer, so they give them that chance. If you “give your lawyer that chance” the statute of limitations may bar your case.

Tennessee has recently amended this to provide a statute of repose, meaning generally that absent fraud, the statute of limitations expires five (5) years from the date of malpractice even if you don’t discover the malpractice during that period of time.

The Tennessee statute of limitations can also be confusing and misleading. In fact, during our discussions with many attorneys, we have discovered that that are a lot of Tennessee attorneys who do not understand the Tennessee statute of limitations which applies to their conduct, and those attorneys generally give their client the wrong advice. When they do, these attorneys can potentially become malpracticing attorneys based on their failure to give proper advice concerning the statute of limitations!

If you believe that your attorney made a mistake, don’t wait! Time is NOT on your side.

And talk with a legal malpractice attorney who actually understands the law concerning the Tennessee statute of limitations for malpractice lawyers.

Contact our Experienced Legal Ethics and Malpractice Lawyers

At Tennessee Legal Malpractice, we have been helping victims of legal malpractice for over 20 years. Our attorneys have handled legal malpractice cases in each of the three Grand Divisions of the State of Tennessee (East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee) and Attorneys Edward M. Graves, Jr., and David Day are board certified as Diplomates in the field of Legal Malpractice by the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys (which is recognized by the American Bar Association as the certifying board for this area of law in the United States). We are committed to doing everything we legally can to obtain justice on your behalf.

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