What is Res Ipsa Loquitur?

court room

When you’re injured in a San Diego accident you can demand compensation from the person who is responsible for your injuries. In most cases, you’ll have to provide direct evidence showing that person is to blame. This can include photographs, forensic evidence, or witness testimony. What if there is no direct evidence to support your case? Will this prevent you from getting the money you deserve? Not necessarily. You may be able to rely on the legal doctrine “res ipsa loquitur.”

What is Res Ipsa Loquitur?

The thing speaks for itself. This is, quite literally, what the phrase res ipsa loquitur means. In the context of your personal injury case, it’s used when your injury couldn’t have happened unless the defendant was negligent. The legal doctrine can allow you to move forward with your personal injury case even if you lack direct evidence. Instead, you can rely entirely on circumstantial evidence.

What Are the Elements of Res Ipsa Loquitur?

There are certain things that must be established when you invoke res ipsa loquitur. Your case cannot be successful if you fail to prove any of the following elements.

1. You wouldn’t have been injured unless someone was negligent.

This is the very essence of res ipsa loquitur. You’ll have to prove that there is no way that you could have been injured unless another person was negligent in some way. There can be no other reasonable explanation for the accident.

Example: You were injured in a San Diego bus accident. Investigators cannot find a logical explanation for the crash. While there is no direct evidence of negligence, the only way you could have been hurt is if the bus driver was negligent.

2. You were injured by something under the defendant’s exclusive control.

Here, you’ll have to prove that the defendant was the only person who had control over the thing that hurt you or caused your accident. Your case can’t rely on res ipsa loquitur if there’s evidence to show that more than one person controlled the thing that hurt you.

Example: An object falls out of a window and hits you while you’re walking outside. It turns out that the building is a manufacturing plant and the object had recently come off of the production line. The only explanation for the accident is that someone in the building was negligent. The manufacturer, as the sole tenant of the building, had exclusive control over the object that hit you.

3. You in no way contributed to your own injuries.

You cannot have caused your accident or contributed to your injuries in any way. This will prevent you from invoking res ipsa loquitur successfully.

Example: You develop an infection and complications after a surgeon leaves a medical sponge in your abdomen after a routine surgery. You wouldn’t have been hurt if the surgeon hadn’t been negligent. The surgeon had exclusive control over the instrument that caused your injury. None of your actions contributed to your injuries.

Rebuttable Presumption of Negligence

Res ipsa loquitur doesn’t guarantee that you will win your personal injury case. Instead, it simply allows you to create what is known as a rebuttable presumption of negligence. This doesn’t mean that you’ve proven the defendant was negligent. Instead, you’ve simply shifted the burden of proof to the defendant. They will have the opportunity to defend themselves and offer other explanations for why you may have been injured.

Injury Trial Lawyers, APC
1230 Columbia Street Suite 560
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 525-7007

Were you injured in an accident but there’s no direct evidence to prove someone else is to blame? You may be able to use the doctrine res ipsa loquitur to prove your case.  Contact our San Diego personal injury lawyers to learn about your legal options.