Serving Maryland and Washington D.C. 301-870-1200

The Importance of Res Ipsa Loquitor in Personal Injury Cases

In Tort and personal injury law, many times a plaintiff may not know what has happened and cannot provide substantial evidence. However, the law has created a presumption of negligence theory known as “res ipsa loquitor,” which translates to “the thing (the negligent act) speaks for itself.” This would apply in situations such as when a person undergoes surgery and during the surgery, the wrong leg is amputated. Though the person was not awake and does not have evidence to show negligence because he or she did not witness the event, the fact that the wrong leg was amputated imbues the presumption that negligence was the prime reason for the wrong leg amputation. The theory of “res ipsa loquitor” has gone beyond its initial inception and has helped hundreds of injured victims move through the court systems and be paid for their claims, even with a paucity of evidence.

The Theory of Res Ipsa Loquitor

When using res ipsa loquitor, the plaintiff generally must show that the injury that resulted is not the kind that ordinarily occurs absent negligence, that the defendant was in direct control of the instrumentality that led to the injury, and that the plaintiff did not act or omit anything that would have led to the injury to occur.

Res Ipsa Loquitor in Single Vehicle Accidents in Maryland

The use of res ipsa loquitor in a single vehicle accident is still in conflict under Maryland law. In a case that occurred in 2012, limitations were placed on the use of res ipsa loquitor relating to a bus crash that occurred and injured the plaintiff. According to the facts of the case, the plaintiff got on the bus with his 8-year-old son, and they proceeded to fall asleep on the bus. The plaintiff woke up to find the bus in midair, falling into a wooded area and colliding with a tree. The plaintiff brought the negligence suit against the District of Columbia, which owned the bus, stating that it was vicariously liable for negligence that was carried out by their employee, the bus driver. The plaintiff asserted that this was the type of accident that could not occur absent negligence, the bus was directly in the control of the bus driver, and the plaintiffs were asleep and did not act in a way that would have led to the crash.

Maryland Past and Present Case Law on Res Ipsa Loquitor in Single Vehicle Crashes

Maryland courts have long been swayed by the argument that the failure of the driver to maintain control of the vehicle is a prima facie demonstration of negligence. The circuit court on the 2012 case found that res ipsa loquitor would not apply in this situation because there could many reasons why the bus went out of control and crashed that had nothing to do with negligence. The Maryland Court Special Appeals reversed the circuit court’s conclusion and found that the plaintiff’s testimony of waking up in the middle of the crash raised a rebuttable presumption that negligence occurred, espousing the long held Maryland case law that losing control of a vehicle is prima facie case of negligence. However, the Maryland high court reversed the Maryland Court Special Appeals decision, stating that there was not enough evidence to show negligence and that res ipsa loquitor was inappropriate for this case. This decision only affects Maryland caselaw that mirrors the same fact pattern of this case. The court did not overturn precedent in other case law that held that res ipsa loquitor could be used to prove negligence in single automobile crashes.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You

If you or a loved one was injured due to negligence and believe res ipsa loquitor could aid your case, it is important to consult with an experienced Waldorf personal injury attorney. Please call the Law Office of Robert R. Castro at (301) 804-2312 for a confidential consultation.