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What does res ipsa loquitur mean?

When you visit someone else's property in New Mexico, whether it be a home or a business, the owner owes you a duty of care to keep you safe and free from harm. If the owner fails in his or her duty and you become injured as a result, you typically need to prove negligence on the part of the owner to receive compensation.

However, proving owner negligence is not always necessary. According to FindLaw, you may become injured due to an unusual event that could only have occurred as a result of the property owner's failure in his or her duty to visitors like yourself. If that is the case, you can use circumstantial evidence to create a rebuttable presumption of negligence, and the burden of proof to demonstrate that no negligence took place shifts to the property owner. The legal term for this concept is res ipsa loquitur, which is a Latin phrase meaning "the thing speaks for itself," and it allows judges and juries to determine whether or not the property owner acted negligently by applying common sense. 

Res ipsa loquitur does not apply in instances where the property owner does not owe you a duty of care. For example, if you were a trespasser on the property and became injured due to the owner's negligence, you could not invoke res ipsa loquitur. Because you did not have permission to be on the property, the owner had little or no responsibility to ensure your safety.

You must also meet two other requirements for res ipsa loquitur. First, you must show that the owner's negligence was solely responsible for the accident. If there were a third party involved, or if your own actions contributed to your injury, res ipsa loquitur does not apply. Second, you must demonstrate that the accident would not have happened at all had the property owner not been negligent.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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