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What is 'res ipsa loquitur' in a medical malpractice case?

Many accidents happen every day in New York. Many of these accidents are somewhat harmless and may require some clean up, but beyond that they do not affect people's lives. However, other accidents can cause catastrophic injuries and completely change one's life and the lives of their families. These types of accidents can be very devastating both physically and financially.

These accidents can occur almost anywhere as well, including at a hospital or medical clinic. These places are generally places where people go to get better, but sometimes things get worse if the doctor or medical personnel make mistakes. If this occurs and one develops a new injury or their condition worsens, the victim may pursue compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit.

In any case, the victim would have to prove that the doctor or the medical team made a mistake and if they exercised reasonable medical judgment the accident would not have occurred. This often times requires the use of an expert, generally another doctor, to testify that the doctor did not use reasonable medical judgment. However, in some cases this is not needed.

Sometimes the victim may be able to use the legal theory of "res ipsa loquitur." This basically means that the only way the injury occurred was due to the doctor's negligence. An example would be an instrument left inside the body after surgery. In order to be successful the victim needs to prove that the accident could only have occurred due to the doctor's negligence; that what caused the injury was under the control of the doctor and the medical team the entire time; and the victim did not contribute to the injury in any way.

Most of the time when people in New York go to the doctor, they get what they need to get better. However, doctors are human and mistakes occur. When this happens, the victim can be in a worse situation than when they went in to the doctor and this can be very costly. Victims in cases like these may want to seek compensation. Attorneys understand the devastation of these injuries and may be a useful resource.

Source: nycbar.org, "Medical Malpractice" accessed on Nov. 28, 2017

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