Were you injured in an accident, but there is no direct evidence to show that someone else is to blame? Could the injury only have occurred because someone else was negligent? Is there plenty of circumstantial evidence to support your case? The legal doctrine “res ipsa loquitur” can help you get the money you need. Attorney John Rapillo explains this legal concept and how it can be used to your advantage. For more information, contact the Law Offices of John Rapillo today for a free consultation.
Res Ipsa Loquitur in Los Angeles Personal Injury Cases
Res ipsa loquitur literally means “the thing itself speaks.” It is a legal doctrine that can help accident victims prove their case without providing direct evidence of another person’s negligence. The doctrine is invoked when an accident or injury would not have occurred without negligence. When successfully used, negligence can be inferred from an analysis of the facts of the case.
It’s important to note that using res ipsa loquitur successfully doesn’t guarantee that you’ll recover money after an accident. It is simply a tool that proves that another person was negligent. When you make your case based on res ipsa loquitur, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant. They will then have the opportunity to defend themselves. Defenses often include providing other explanations for the accident or showing that you contributed to the incident in some way.
What Do I Have to Prove When Invoking Res Ipsa Loquitur?
There are three primary elements to a claim based on res ipsa loquitur. You must be able to provide evidence that establishes each of the following things.
- You suffered an injury or harm that wouldn’t have happened unless someone was negligent.
- The harm was caused by someone that only the defendant controlled.
- Your own actions did not contribute to or cause your injury.
In other words, you have to prove that you were injured by something that was under another person’s control, and that your injury wouldn’t have happened unless that person was negligent.
Example 1: Tony is walking outside of a warehouse when he was struck by a heavy object that had rolled and fallen out of the window. There was no evidence to show that any warehouse workers were negligent. Tony filed a lawsuit against the warehouse and invoked the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. He argued that his injury would not have occurred unless someone had been negligent. The object that struck him was under the exclusive control of the warehouse. He did nothing to contribute to his injury. Unless the warehouse can provide another explanation for Tony’s injuries, they may be considered negligent based on an analysis of the circumstances.
Example 2: An airplane suddenly crashes without warning. An investigation into the accident finds that there were no mechanical issues, that the weather didn’t contribute, and that the plane was not defective. The only possible explanation for the accident could be that the pilot was negligent. Victims (or their families seeking damages through a wrongful death claim) could invoke res ipsa loquitur to prove an essential element of their negligence case.
Example 3: A man undergoes a routine medical procedure on his abdomen at a local hospital. He is in great physical condition and has no known medical issues. The medical procedure is declared to be a success by the surgeon and medical team. After the procedure, the man develops life-threatening complications. As a result, he loses the ability to see. There is no direct evidence to show that the surgeon or medical team acted negligently. However, there is no other logical explanation for the man’s injury. He invokes res ipsa loquitur when he files a personal injury lawsuit. The burden of explaining why the injury occurred now shifts to the medical team. They will have to come up with a reason for the injury or risk being declared negligent.
Res ipsa loquitur is a tool that can help accident victims when there is no direct evidence of negligence. It’s important to know that the defendant will always have the ability to counter any claims that they caused your injury. However, if the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming, you may still be able to win your case.
Do you need help getting money after an Orange County accident? Our personal injury attorneys can help. Contact us today to set up your free case assessment.
Law Offices of John Rapillo