Res Ipsa Loquitur—What it Means for Your Car Accident Case

Ordinarily, it is up to a personal injury claim plaintiff to prove that the defendant is responsible for the plaintiff's injuries. However, the legal principle of Res Ipsa Loquitur turns tables on the defendant and requires them to prove that they did not cause an accident. As an accident victim, here are the three things you need to prove if you want the court to apply the Res Ipsa Loquitur doctrine:

There Would Not Have Been an Accident without another Person's Negligence

There are accidents that cannot happen on their own; they only occur if someone's action or inaction causes them. For example, a surgeon cannot operate on the wrong part of the body unless someone is negligent – it can't just happen on its own. Another example is a parked car that cannot start moving on its own without someone's involvement (maybe the driver didn't engage the parking brakes). Similarly, if a child is injured in a daycare swimming pool, it follows that someone (who should have been watching the kid) forgot to watch the child.

These examples contrast with other accidents that can occur without any other person's negligence. For example, a fairly stable tree can fall and cause you serious injuries in a freak storm; it doesn't mean that someone caused the crash. Another example is a sinkhole that opens and swallows a parking lot; it can easily happen without anyone's input or lack of it.

The Accident Was Caused by Something Only the Defendant Controlled

You also need to prove that only the defendant was in charge of the act or item that caused the accident, which is another way of saying that only they could have caused or prevented the accident. Take an example where there are only two cars on the road, yours and another motorist's car, and they swerve out of their lane and hit you. In this case, it is clear that the other motorist is the only person that was controlling the car that hit you, which means they were in control of the whole situation. Contrast this with a multicar accident where it is not even clear who hit who first. This latter example cannot pass the Res Ipsa Loquitur test.

You Did Not Contribute to the Harm

Lastly, you also have to prove that your actions or inactions did not cause the accident. For example, if your car is legally parked in a parking lot and another motorist hits it while driving off the parking lot, then it is clear that you did not contribute to the accident. Another example is when a neighbor doesn't agree with your political views and attacks you for them.

Contrast this with a case in which you are staring at your smartphone while leisurely driving along a deserted country road and another car crashes into your car because the driver was intoxicated. In this case, it can be argued that your distraction contributed to the accident, so you cannot use the Res Ipsa Loquitur principle.

To understand this and other legal principles, enlist the help of local law firms such as Hodge Law Firm.