Providing Proof in a Negligence Case

To provide evidence in a personal injury lawsuit based on negligence, you can use direct and/or circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence of negligence is evidence that tends to establish actual factual occurrences through proof they occurred. An example of direct evidence is eyewitness testimony. Circumstantial evidence is, in effect, another type of presumption. The plaintiff must establish that it is more likely than not that the harm suffered was a result of the defendant’s negligence.

Special rules are applicable in specific cases. For example in case of a slip and fall injury lawsuit where the plaintiff claims that the injury happened because the plaintiff slipped and fell while on the defendant’s property and the condition of the defendant’s property is the cause of the slip and fall, the plaintiff must prove that the condition existed for sufficient time before the plaintiff’s slip and fall and that the defendant should have discovered the condition and corrected it. Similarly if a person while shopping at a mall slips on some liquid soap spilled on the floor cannot succeed without first showing that the soap was on the floor for sufficient time that the mall staff could have discovered it and cleared the mess. To prove that the soap was on the floor for sufficient time, the person can rely on evidence of the soap smeared across the floor caused by customers walking over it.

In some cases, the plaintiff can use the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. In Latin res ipsa loquitur means “the thing speaks for itself”. This means that under certain circumstances the plaintiff may raise a presumption of negligence simply by detailing the manner in which the accident or the loss in question occurred. Negligence will be presumed where the means by which the damage was inflicted were under the defendant’s sole control or where, on first sight, no explanation other than carelessness by the defendant is possible. The practical effect is that the plaintiff does not need to prove precisely what was the relevant act of omission which set in train the events leading to the accident.

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