When another person is negligent and causes you harm, you have the right to file a lawsuit to recover monetary damages. In order for your lawsuit to be successful, you’ll have to prove that the other person was, in fact, negligent. In most cases, there will be some direct evidence to support your case. However, it is possible to suffer an injury and know that someone else is to blame, but to have no direct evidence of negligence. Don’t worry if this happens to you. You can invoke the legal doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.
Res ipsa loquitur roughly translates to “the thing speaks for itself.” It is a legal doctrine that allows victims to use circumstantial evidence to show that another person was negligent. Rather than relying on direct evidence that clearly shows someone was negligent, you point to the specific circumstances of your accident. When the circumstantial evidence is considered, the only reasonable explanation for your injury is that other person’s negligence.
When you are successful, you create a rebuttable presumption of negligence. This doesn’t automatically prove negligence. Instead, it shifts the burden to the defendant. They will now have to prove that they were not negligent and/or offer another valid reason for why you were injured.
There are three primary elements of res ipsa loquitur. You must be able to establish each of these elements to create a rebuttable presumption of negligence.
In other words, you have to prove that the only logical explanation for your injury is another person’s negligence. You can’t have contributed to your injury and the thing that hurt you must have been under the sole control of the defendant.
It can help to have a few examples to fully understand how res ipsa loquitur works.
Example #1. A bus crashes suddenly without warning or explanation. There were no mechanical problems with the bus and it was in fine working conditions. The traffic and weather were clear when the accident happened. While there is no specific evidence to show that the bus driver was negligent, this is the only logical explanation for the accident.
Example #2. A man is seriously injured by a falling barrel while walking outside of a warehouse in Los Angeles. There’s no direct evidence to show that any of the workers in the warehouse were negligent. However, circumstantial evidence suggests that negligence is the only possible cause of the accident and injury.
Example #3. A small child was injured when using a new toy. There were no obvious defects or issues with the toy upon inspection. However, the child’s injury is something that wouldn’t have happened in the absence of negligence. There is also no other explanation for the child’s injury. The family could use res ipsa loquitur to support their product liability case against the manufacturer.
Direct evidence of negligence is the best way to support your personal injury case. However, there may be times when there is no substantial proof to show that someone else’s negligence caused your injury. Res ipsa loquitur protects your right to recover compensation. You can use circumstantial evidence to create a valid presumption that another person was negligent. When you’re successful, a lack of direct evidence won’t stand in your way of recovering the money you deserve.
It can be difficult to know which pieces of evidence will best support your case. Working with an experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorney will help you secure the best possible outcome in your case. Contact Joshua W. Glotzer, APC to schedule a free case assessment with our legal team.
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