What is Res Ipsa Loquitur and can it impact your Florida injury claim?

by Jan 13, 2022Negligence, Personal Injury

What is Res Ipsa Loquitur and can it impact your Florida injury claim?

by Jan 13, 2022Negligence, Personal Injury

Piano falls on car in florida and causes personal injury
Piano falls on car in florida and causes personal injury

Res Ipsa Loquitur is a well-known legal doctrine that can be invoked against defendants in civil tort cases in Florida, as it is in many other states.

In general, the claim is advanced when a party claims that even without direct evidence, the court can infer negligence from the accident or injury.

A res ipsa loquitur will typically be brought when questioning how an accident or injury occurred is so obviously negligent that the court does not require further evidence regarding how a defendant acted to assign accountability.

How Does Res Ipsa Loquitur Work in a Florida injury claim?

In its direct translation from Latin, res ipsa loquitur means “the thing speaks for itself.” When used in a court of law, this implies that someone else is likely to be held responsible if someone is injured.

Historically, Florida courts have held that res ipsa loquitur is a common-sense law.

To establish res ipsa loquitur in your Florida injury claim, you must prove these three factors:

  • Without negligence, the accident or injury would not have occurred.
  • Injuries are caused by things or incidents within the defendant’s control.
  • There was no negligence on the part of the plaintiff.

It then becomes the defendant’s responsibility to prove they were not to blame. If the defendant cannot do so, the plaintiff should win the case.

The concept of res ipsa loquitur is simple, but its application can be tricky. In some instances, someone was clearly negligent, but the plaintiff cannot prove who was responsible.

Every personal injury case has its own set of variables, making it unique. A person with a very similar case to yours might get a very different result than what you should expect. Hiring a skilled attorney is beneficial for your Florida personal injury claim for many reasons.

Example of Res Ipsa Loquitur in an injury case

While walking on a public street past the defendant’s store, a barrel of flour fell from a window above the store and seriously injured the plaintiff. The plaintiff was knocked down, wounded, lamed, and permanently disabled during the accident, preventing him from running his business correctly. Additionally, he incurred substantial medical expenses and suffered great pain and anguish.

How does Res Ipsa Loquitur Help Injured Plaintiffs?

In a way, res ipsa loquitur is a doctrine created by judges to help plaintiffs. It would have been difficult for the plaintiff to obtain the evidence needed to prove liability in the flour barrel case above. The barrel itself was under the defendant’s control. In this instance, the plaintiff would not be able to get the evidence they needed to prove liability, and their case would be at risk.

The court continues to use this doctrine even though there is robust discovery before trial. There is no reason to make plaintiffs prove the obvious if the negligence is so evident.

The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur has wide application in various civil cases. The preponderance of evidence standard can be applied since the burden of proof is lower than in a criminal case. Even in civil cases (other than negligence cases) involving antitrust law violations, res ipsa loquitur can be used.

Res Ipsa Loquitur usually appears in Simple Cases

In simple cases, res ipsa loquitur is the most effective. Jurors are less likely to be able to infer negligence when the facts are complex. You can see that its best use is to deal with extreme negligence, such as falling objects.

Res ipsa loquitur looks pretty straightforward, but some issues with its application may raise doubts during the trial. The question is whether it creates a presumption of negligence that the defendant must rebut. There is also the question of whether this is just a rule of evidence or a test of negligence in and of itself.

Disputing res ipsa loquitur in a Florida injury claim

The mere fact that a plaintiff’s lawyer can invoke res ipsa loquitur does not mean the case is automatically won. By shifting the burden of proof back to the plaintiff, a defense lawyer might be able to absolve the defendant of responsibility.

An Act of God could also be used as a defense by a defendant. Generally, an Act of God is a natural event – for instance, if the plaintiff’s injury was caused by an object that fell from a window, one could argue that it was caused by a strong wind gust and not because the defendant was negligent.

Res ipsa loquitur would not apply if the defendant could prove the plaintiff somehow contributed to their own injury.

If someone has injured you through negligence, you deserve compensation. Even though every lawyer should be aware of res ipsa loquitur, it can be a complex argument to make in court. You need a skilled legal professional at the Bodden and Bennett Law Group to evaluate every aspect of your case and formulate the best possible plan to win your lawsuit.

To schedule a free case evaluation today, contact us online or call us at (561) 806-5229

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