Res Ipsa Loquitur in Maryland

Res ipsa loquitur is Latin for "the thing speaks for itself." This phrase stands for an evidentiary rule personal injury attorneys in Maryland can use in some circumstances to bring a personal injury action in the absence specific evidence of negligence. Under this doctrine, plaintiffs may meet its prima facie burden of proof in a negligence action in the absence of specific evidence that the defendant was negligent because the injury would not ordinarily occur in the absence of the defendant's negligence. For example, if a truck were driving on a newly built road and the road collapsed, there would be an inference that the contractor who built the road was responsible. Res ipsa in Maryland is not absolute negligence: the road contractor's attorney, in this example, would have the opportunity to rebut the inference of negligence by proving that road collapsed for a different reason such as evidence that the truck weighed more than federal or state regulations allowed.
In Maryland, there are three elements an attorney must prove in a personal injury case in order to the create an inference of negligence on the part of a defendant: (1) a casualty of a kind that does not ordinarily occur absent negligence, (2) that was caused by an instrumentality exclusively in the defendant's control, and (3) that was not caused by an act or omission of the plaintiff. Holzhauer v. Saks & Co., 346 Md. 328, 335-336 (1997).

Auto accidents and truck accidents are unfortunately not uncommon occurrences in Maryland. These accidents occur under a large variety of circumstances under which different drivers and even non-drivers may be potentially at-fault for the accident. It is the rare case when only one inference may be drawn as to the who is at-fault for the accident. Auto accidents and truck accidents are not typical res ipsa cases. However, the mere fact that the occurrence is an auto or truck accident does not ipso facto preclude an accident attorney from invoking res ipsa to prove negligence.

Among the various types motor vehicle accidents, there is one scenario in particular in Maryland accident lawyers have sought consistently to apply the res ipsa loquitur doctrine. Where a car, truck or motorcycle leaves the road without a prior collision and thereby causes injury or damage, Maryland courts will draw an inference of negligence from the occurrence (assuming the other conditions set forth above are met) because the driving off the road really is the think speaking for itself.

Scholars - okay, not really scholars - sometimes confuse res ipsa loquitur with ipso facto. There is a big difference between the two. Ispo facto means a certain effect is a direct consequence of the action in question, instead of being brought about by a subsequent action. "You have Googled res ipsa loquitur; ipso facto you want to learn more about it."

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