What is a Res Ipsa Loquitur?

Res Ipsa Loquitur is a legal theory that can help individuals recover the compensation they deserve after an injury caused by another person. The translation of the term is “the thing speaks for itself.” If you file a personal injury lawsuit regarding an accident or injury, you might become very familiar with the term.

Negligence and Personal Injury Claims

Most personal injury cases are based on negligence claims. If you are injured in a car accident, construction accident, slip and fall accident, or another incident, you need to prove the other party is legally responsible for your injuries, economic losses, and other damages.

To hold the person responsible for your injury financially liable for damages, you must prove the legal elements of negligence. You must have evidence to prove:

  • The person owed you a duty of care
  • The person’s actions or conduct breached the duty of care
  • The act of breaching the duty of care was a direct and proximate cause of your injury
  • You sustained damages because the person breached the duty of care

In most cases, you need direct evidence to prove each of the above legal elements to be successful in a personal injury case. Evidence might include physical evidence, eyewitness testimony, video evidence, and other tangible proof that the person was negligent.

However, it can be difficult or impossible to locate physical evidence in some cases. In those cases, the legal theory of Res Ipsa Loquitur becomes crucial for proving fault and liability.

How Does Res Ipsa Loquitur Apply in a Personal Injury Case?

Circumstantial evidence is used to establish negligence under Res Ipsa Loquitur. The circumstantial evidence allows jurors to infer negligence even though there is no direct evidence that the defendant’s conduct was directly responsible for injuring the victim. 

Proving negligence using Res Ipsa Loquitur is not easy. You must prove each legal element required for a Res Ipsa Loquitur negligence claim. 

The legal elements of Res Ipsa Loquitur are:

  • The situation that occurred is not a situation that is likely to occur without someone being negligent
  • The person accused of negligence had exclusive control of the circumstances that led to the victim’s injuries
  • The person’s acts or conduct was within the scope of the person’s duty of care owed to the victim
  • The evidence shows that there is no possibility that a third party or the victim was responsible for the victim’s injuries

Providing circumstantial evidence that allows jurors to infer negligence is not a guarantee that you will win a negligence case based on Res Ipsa Loquitur. The theory creates a rebuttable presumption of negligence and liability. The burden of proving that the defendant was not liable shifts to the defendant.

However, the defendant can present evidence that contradicts the evidence presented by the plaintiff. The defendant could argue that he was not in exclusive control of the situation, which means that someone else could have created the circumstances that caused the victim’s injuries. 

The defendant could also argue that the victim was responsible for causing their injuries because of the victim’s conduct. Another defense might be that the victim’s injuries could have resulted from another situation.

The jurors are the triers of fact. They listen to the evidence presented in court and decide who to believe. The party with the most convincing circumstantial evidence has the best chance of winning the case.

Injury and Harm is a Crucial Element of Res Ipsa Loquitur Claims

Proving that the circumstances lead to a presumption of negligence is just one step in recovering compensation in a Res Ipsa Loquitur case. You must also prove that you were injured or harmed as a result of the presumed negligence. 

You may use circumstantial evidence to prove negligence, but you must have direct evidence of injuries and harm. Examples of harm might include physical injuries, emotional suffering, and economic losses. If you cannot prove that you sustained harm because of the defendant’s actions, you cannot recover compensation for damages. 

A jury decides how much an injury claim is worth based on the facts of the case. Compensation can be awarded for damages including:

  • Physical injuries and pain
  • Medical bills and expenses
  • Loss of income and benefits
  • Emotional and mental suffering and trauma
  • Permanent impairments and disabilities
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Other financial losses and expenses
  • Scarring and disfigurement 

Personal injury cases based on Res Ipsa Loquitur can be challenging to win. If you believe another party’s actions caused your injury, it is important to take steps to protect your right to compensation for damages.

You should seek immediate medical treatment for your injuries. Documenting your injuries through medical records is essential for the success of your case. 

When you are stable, you can discuss your case with a lawyer. A lawyer reviews your case to determine whether you have a legal cause of action under negligence laws or the theory of Res Ipsa Loquitur.