An essential part a of personal injury lawsuit is showing that the defendant’s negligence or wrongdoing caused the injury. However, in some instances, negligence may be difficult to prove when there is a lack of direct evidence. Therefore, in some personal injury lawsuits, a plaintiff may use the res ipsa loquitur doctrine. In Latin, the phrase “res ipsa loquitur” means “the thing speaks for itself.”
In Illinois, this doctrine is a rule of evidence that allows for an inference of negligence based on circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence is evidence that suggests a conclusion but does not directly establish that conclusion. When invoking res ipsa loquitur, the plaintiff is showing that the accident or injury would not have occurred if the defendant had not been negligent.
To invoke res ipsa loquitur, the plaintiff generally must establish each of the following:
1. The accident or injury would not ordinarily occur in the absence of negligence;
2. The defendant had control over the device or instrumentality that caused the injury; and
3. The plaintiff did not cause the injury with her own negligent acts or omissions.
However, even if the plaintiff successfully invokes res ipsa loquitur, it does not mean that she won the case. The doctrine only creates a presumption of negligence, which is rebuttable. This means that the defendant can attempt to counter the presumption by proving that he was not negligent.
For example, the defendant may submit evidence suggesting that the plaintiff caused her own injury. The conflicting evidence is often submitted to a jury, which determines which evidence is more convincing. If the jury finds the defendant’s evidence more convincing and decides that the plaintiff contributed to her own injury, res ipsa loquitur will not apply.
Res ipsa loquitur may be used in a variety of personal injury cases. Most often, it is used in medical malpractice lawsuits.
For example, if, after undergoing surgery, a patient discovers that the operating team left a sponge inside her body, the patient may invoke res ipsa loquitur to establish that the operating team was negligent. A sponge would not ordinarily be left inside the patient’s body without negligence. Additionally, during surgery, the operating team had exclusive control of her body. As such, res ipsa loquitur may create a presumption that the operating team was negligent.
If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence, but are having problems finding direct evidence, Shifrin Law Group may be able to help you determine the proper course of action and whether the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applies. Please contact the dedicated attorneys at Shifrin Law Group for a free consultation today.
If you were injured by someone’s negligence, you deserve fair compensation.