Accidents are typically the result of negligent behavior. In most cases, proving negligence is fairly straightforward. You simply point to direct evidence that shows another person’s actions caused your accident and injury. What happens, though, if there is no direct evidence of negligence? You can turn to the legal doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.
Understanding Res Ipsa Loquitur
Res ipsa loquitur is an age-old legal doctrine that means “the thing speaks for itself.” It is used when you are injured and there is no direct evidence to prove another person’s negligence. However, circumstantial evidence suggests that the only possible cause of the accident was negligence. Invoking res ipsa loquitur allows you to establish a rebuttable presumption of negligence without offering direct evidence.
Rebuttable Presumption of Negligence
Just because have you circumstantial evidence to support your case doesn’t automatically mean that you can automatically prove negligence. Instead, you can create a rebuttable presumption of negligence. This simply means that you’ve proved negligence is a very likely cause of your accident. The burden then shifts to the defendant. They must prove that they were not negligent. This can be done by offering direct evidence or offering another reason for why you may have been injured.
How Can I Prove Negligence Using Res Ipsa Loquitur?
If there is no direct evidence to support your personal injury case for negligence, you can turn to res ipsa loquitur. In order to prove negligence using res ipsa loquitur you’ll have to prove:
- The harm you suffered wouldn’t have ordinarily happened unless someone was negligent;
- The harm was caused by something that was only in the defendant’s control; and
- You did not cause or contribute to the event that harmed you.
Harm Suffered Only a Result of Negligence
Invoking res ipsa loquitur will only work when you can prove that the injury you suffered wouldn’t have happened unless someone was negligent. There can be no other reasonable explanation for the accident and your injury.
For example, let’s say you are injured when a barrel falls out of a warehouse window. You would have to prove that this is the type of accident that can only happen when someone is negligent. Barrels don’t just fall out of windows randomly without reason. Negligence is the only logical explanation.
Harm Caused By Something in Defendant’s Sole Control
You can only establish negligence using res ipsa loquitur if you were harmed by something that only the defendant had control over.
For example, let’s say you were injured in a train accident. There is no other logical explanation for the accident than the conductor’s negligence. You’ll have to prove that the train was in the conductor’s sole control at the time of the accident.
You Didn’t Contribute to the Harm
You cannot use res ipsa loquitur successfully if you contributed to the accident in any way. Sharing fault would prevent you from establishing negligence using the doctrine.
For example, let’s say you were injured while using a new drone. However, you were not using the drone as intended when the accident happened. Since your voluntary actions contributed to your harm, you cannot use res ipsa loquitur.
When Can I Use Res Ipsa Loquitur?
You can use res ipsa loquitur to establish negligence when there is no direct evidence to support your case. Remember, you must be able to prove that the only logical explanation for your injury is the defendant’s negligence. You’ll also have to prove that the injury was caused by something exclusively in the defendant’s control and that you didn’t contribute at all.
Most personal injury cases in Los Angeles, including those relying on res ipsa loquitur, must be filed within two years of the accident. If you don’t file your claim before the statute of limitations expires, you will probably be barred from getting the money you need.
Have you been injured in a Los Angeles accident? Do you need to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer? Contact Citywide Law Group for immediate legal assistance today.