Close Menu

What is Res Ipsa Loquitur, and How Does It Affect My Legal Case?

Some acts of negligence are so shocking that you may need no further proof once they happen.  If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident where someone else was to blame, the experience Inland Empire catastrophic injury attorneys at Heiting & Irwin, APLC are the best friends you can have.
The law has created a doctrine to help people who have been hurt by inexplicable yet ghastly acts of negligence.  If a judge applies the res ipsa loquitur doctrine, it means that what happened is itself evidence of negligence.
According to Merriam-Webster, res ipsa loquitur means “the thing speaks for itself”.  It defines: A doctrine or rule of evidence in tort law that permits an inference or presumption that a defendant was negligent in an accident injuring the plaintiff on the basis of circumstantial evidence if the accident was of a kind that does not ordinarily occur in the absence of negligence.
A plaintiff who establishes the elements of res ipsa loquitur can reach the jury without direct proof of negligence.
For res ipsa loquitur to apply, the accident in question must not be due to any voluntary action or contribution by the plaintiff.  The doctrine has traditionally required that a defendant have exclusive control over the instrumentality of an injury, but now it is commonly applied when multiple defendants have joint or sometimes successive control (as by the manufacturer and retailer of a defective product). . . .
Of course, other factors can play into the analysis.
For a free case evaluation, get in touch with the Inland Empire catastrophic accident lawyers at Heiting & Irwin.  You can discuss your case with us, and we can explain your legal options and path forward.
Res Ipsa Loquitur Helps You Get Financial Compensation
There are some times when you absolutely know that someone has done something wrong, but you may not necessarily be able to prove it.  Still, the fact that you may not have specific proof may not be an absolute bar to financial compensation.  There are certain things that should simply never happen, and the fact that they did could be evidence of negligence in itself.  This may be used by your lawyer in the right circumstances.
Like many concepts in our civil law, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur originated at common law from an old English case.  In Byrne v. Boadle, a barrel of flour fell out of a second-floor window and struck the plaintiff in the shoulder.  Witnesses saw the barrel hit the plaintiff, but nobody could testify about how it fell or who did what wrong.  Here, it was very clear that someone did something wrong, because barrels simply to not ordinarily fall out of windows unless someone was negligent.  Not wanting to deny the plaintiff compensation when the plaintiff obviously deserved it, the court applied the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.
Some Acts of Negligence Speak for Themselves
Translated from Latin, res ipsa loquitur means “the thing speaks for itself.”  The fact that the incident itself happened automatically means that someone did something wrong that would entitle a plaintiff to compensation.  The circumstantial evidence may allow the burden of proof to shift to the defendant.
Res ipsa loquitur is one of the many situations where a concept originates from the law’s desire to be fundamentally fair to participants in the legal process.  Even when you cannot know the specifics, the sheer outrageousness of certain types of negligence could entitle you to compensation virtually automatically.
Some examples of cases where the res ipsa loquitur doctrine would apply include:
●Debris falls from a construction site or office window and strikes a passerby
●A roach or rat is found inside food
●A doctor leaves a piece of surgical equipment inside a patient
●An air bag explodes while a car is driving.
Why You Still Need a Lawyer When There Is Extreme Negligence
The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur does not mean that there is no investigation necessary.  You still need to hire a lawyer for your case for multiple reasons, including:
●You must identify which party was responsible for the accident.  There may be several parties who you can sue to maximize your financial compensation.
●The exact amount of your financial compensation still needs to be determined.  Res ipsa loquitur cases often involve serious injuries because of the level of carelessness involved.
●You may still negotiate a settlement with the defendant.
●You may even be able to obtain punitive damages from the defendant if your case goes to a jury.  These cases often involve negligence or recklessness that is so egregious that an angry jury may choose to punish the defendant.
While you have legal rights, they still must be protected.  Nothing can stop a determined insurance company from trying to save money at your expense, regardless of the facts of your case.  An experienced catastrophic injury lawyer in Inland Empire can leverage the situation to your advantage when the facts and law are on your side.  They can file a lawsuit or claim on your behalf to fight for you to receive the maximum amount of compensation.
Contact an Inland Empire Catastrophic Injury Lawyer Today
Get help now by contacting the experienced Inland Empire catastrophic injury lawyers at Heiting & Irwin.  We are standing by and ready to work to maximize your financial compensation after you have been hurt by someone else’s carelessness.  Our catastrophic injury lawyers can walk you through the legal process when you schedule a free initial consultation.  You can send us a message online or call us today at 951-682-6400.
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn