Literally, "res ipsa loquitur" is Latin for "the thing speaks for itself." In terms of medical malpractice, the res ipsa doctrine refers to cases where the doctor’s treatment was so far below the appropriate standard of care that negligence is assumed.
In most medical malpractice lawsuits, the injured party must prove that the physician breached his duty by failing to provide a certain standard of medical care. This breach of duty must be demonstrated by expert testimony. However, in res ipsa cases expert testimony about the standard of care is not required.
Instead, the person injured must prove the following in order for the res ipsa doctrine to apply:
- It is common knowledge that the kind of accident that caused the harm does not occur without a physician’s negligence
- The equipment or conduct that caused the injury was at all times under the physician’s control
- The injury was not one that the injured person assumed voluntarily or contributed to
Although a plaintiff can prove res ipsa in any case where the above criteria are met, some common scenarios are:
- Leaving a foreign object inside the patient after surgery or other invasive procedure
- Operating on the wrong patient
- Operating on the wrong part of the patient
If you are involved in a case that may involve res ipsa loquitur, speak to a personal injury attorney immediately. An attorney with experience in medical malpractice can advise you on the best way to present and win your case.