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Res ipsa doctrine and medical malpractice actions

On Behalf of | Jan 17, 2020 | Medical Malpractice

Receiving medical care can either feel routine or overwhelming. Whether a patient is at a clinic for a regular check-up or is at a medical facility due to an illness, injury, emergency or scheduled procedure, a patient is likely to encounter various medical professionals. And when a patient is experiencing a wide range of pains and emotions, it can be difficult to recall what medical professional did what at what point of their care. Thus, when a patient suffers harm, it may be challenging for them to pinpoint just how this harm occurred and who is accountable for the harms suffered by a medical mistake or error.

Proving fault in a medical malpractice action can seem difficult for injured patients filing this action. In many cases, this is true, as it can be challenging to compile evidence that clearly illustrates medical negligence and the cause of the harms suffered. Nonetheless, even when it is difficult to obtain such evidence, proving fault is still possible.

The res ipsa doctrine could help prove medical negligence when the exact cause of the harm is not known. This legal doctrine, which is a Latin phrase that translates to “the thing speaks for itself,” implies that the harms suffered by the patient would not have occurred unless negligence did occur.

In order to successfully use this doctrine, a patient must prove five elements. This includes proving that evidence of the cause of injury is not obtainable, the injury is not of the type that usually occurs in the absence of negligence, the patient did not cause his or her injury, the defendant had exclusive control of the instruments that caused the injury and the injury could not have been caused by any instrument other than those under control by the defendant.

Much trust is placed in medical professional, as they are deemed experts in their field due to their knowledge, skills and experience. However, medical professionals could also be the cause of serious harms suffered by patients. These matters can be complex and confusing, especially when a patient requires immediate medical intervention to address their harms suffered. A legal professional could help a patient explore their rights and better understand a medical malpractice claim. This civil action could help place liability on a medical professional while also helping a patient secure compensation for losses and damages.


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