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"Res ipsa" and proving fault due to medical malpractice injury

If an illness or injury is unusual or seemingly out of the blue, the injured person may be wondering if previous interaction with medical professionals or medical care could be to blame. If a person isn't sure exactly what or who caused their medically related injury, there is a specific type of personal injury lawsuit to seek.

It's based on "res ipsa" or, by Latin translation, "the thing speaks for itself." It implies that the plaintiff only needs to show that a particular result or injury occurred and would not have occurred but for someone's negligence. Since medical treatments and paperwork can be confusing for the average person, this is a way to bring a lawsuit when you aren't a medical expert. One knows if they have suffered an injury or illness that is unusual or otherwise without cause.

With this type of personal injury claim, the burden of proof shifts from the plaintiff to the defendant. The accused would in fact have to prove that they were not negligent, rather than the plaintiff having to prove the negligence of the defendant, like in most personal injury lawsuits. Not all medical malpractice related injuries are suited for a res ipsa lawsuit, because oftentimes a regular medical malpractice lawsuit alleging negligence is better. However, it's good to know that this is an option for those who might be feeling unsure of how to meet the burden of proof, especially in cases of failure to diagnose.

Each injury and illness that can be attributed to medical malpractice related incidents will come with its own unique set of details. For an individual or a family who has been affected by an unexpected injury or illness, it can be hard on everyone. A person needs to focus on getting better, but the losses a person can suffer can feel insurmountable. A personal injury lawsuit can result in financial damages for permanent injuries or medical conditions.

Source:, "Proving Fault in Medical malpractice Cases," Accessed October 16, 2017

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Rosen Louik Perry, P.C. Pittsburgh
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