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What is the Burden of Proof in my Personal Injury Case?

Monday, November 4th, 2019 By

personal injury

If you or a loved one has sustained any type of injuries that resulted from an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, then you’re of course going to be concerned about everything that’s required in terms of obtaining your fair and rightful compensation towards all the economic and non-economic damages you’ve sustained.

In order to win any personal injury case, the plaintiff must be thoroughly concerned about the burden of proof that’s involved with the specific scenario. The whole concept of burden of proof relates to the amount of evidence that’s necessary in order to successfully claim compensation, and it’s absolutely crucial that anyone involved in a personal injury case to fully understand what you’ll need to provide in court in order to win.

The burden of proof always falls on the plaintiff in personal injury lawsuits, which inherently gives the defendant a slight advantage considering they don’t have to initially prove anything. Our team of legal experts is here to help you when it comes to meeting the burden of proof and presenting the proof of your case in a convincing manner that persuades a jury or judge of the defendant’s negligence that caused your injury, as well as the damages associated with your injury.

On this page, we are going to discuss everything you need to know in terms of understanding the burden of proof in your personal injury case, and how we can work together as a team to prepare the most convincing preponderance of the evidence as possible.

The Burden of Proof Within Personal Injury Cases

The burden of proof in personal injury cases is often referred to as a preponderance of the evidence, which essentially means that the plaintiff has better or more convincing evidence than the defendant. This doesn’t mean you have simply more evidence than your opponent, but it does mean your evidence provides enough proof that the defendant’s negligence leads to your injury and essentially makes them liable for the associated damages.

Personal injury cases fall within civil law, which makes the burden of proof much less than in criminal law. In criminal law, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty, but within civil cases, plaintiffs only need to provide enough evidence that shows that there is more than a 50% chance that the defendant caused the damages that the plaintiff suffered.

This is where the legal phrase “More Likely Than Not” derives from, because a plaintiff’s attorney only needs to present evidence and an overall argument that a judge or jury considers at least 51% accurate. This may seem outlandish for such serious legal matters, but if a jury believes your evidence and story is “more likely than not” true then you’ve gained a preponderance of the evidence and will win the case.

Once a plaintiff has presented their evidence that shows the defendant’s negligence and liability to damages, it’s then the defendant’s responsibility to show enough evidence that they didn’t commit the certain act, or aren’t responsible for the damages. There are several pieces of evidence that are effective within personal injury lawsuits, and some of the more commonly used pieces of evidence include:

  • Eyewitness and expert testimonies
  • Accident reports
  • Photographs were taken from the scene of the accident
  • Property damage repair estimates
  • Medical records and bills
  • Police statements

There’s no way of telling which piece or how much evidence will be enough to meet your burden of proof, and there’s no concrete way of deciding how much weight your provided evidence compares to the defendants. The weight of evidence is always going to be subjective, which means the judge or jury will make their own decisions in terms of how important each piece of evidence is when making their final verdicts.

A “Prima Facie” Injury Case

Like we said earlier, it’s the plaintiff’s burden to prove the defendant liable of their injuries at the beginning of every personal injury lawsuit, and the plaintiff only needs to present what’s known as a “prima facie” case. This translates from Latin to “on its face”, which means you only need to present enough evidence that can show the court that you have a good reason to blame the defendant for what happened in your accident.

A prima facie personal injury case will typically require providing proof that the at-fault party:

  1. Had a duty of care to prevent any kind of harm to you and other people within the given scenario.
  1. In fact, did something wrong or negligent, or failed to do what any reasonable/rational person would have done in the given situation.
  1. Breached their duty of care when they acted out negligently.
  1. Their breach of duty of care through a negligent act/inaction was the direct cause of your injuries.

You’ll also have to provide evidence that you suffered legitimate damages as a result of the at-fault party’s negligent behavior. Some common damages within personal injury lawsuits include the following:

  • Medical bills/expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • And a lot more!

Shifting the Burden of Proof

It’s always really important to be able to shift the burden of proof in civil cases, and this can ultimately switch back and forth between the plaintiff and defendant through the showing of sufficient evidence.

If the plaintiff can shift the burden of proof to the defendant and the defendant can’t shift it back to the plaintiff, then the entirety of the lawsuit can be reviewed and presented to the judge or jury via the plaintiff’s attorney. If the court is persuaded by the plaintiff’s presented evidence then the plaintiff will likely win the case’s judgment.

Punitive Damages

Personal injury cases usually will only require a preponderance of the evidence when it comes to the burden of proof, but there is a different burden of proof associated with punitive damages.

Punitive damages are meant to essentially punish the defendant for their negligence so they act differently in the future, and so it’s the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove to the judge or jury through convincing, clear evidence that they deserve punitive damages. This means you’ll have to show proof that the defendant acted out with malice, oppression or some form of fraud.

Punitive damages will always inherently have a much higher burden of proof than other types of damages, and this is because court systems everywhere want to ensure that only the worst wrongdoers and guiltiest defendants receive these types of harsh penalties.

How Our Personal Injury Experts Can Help with Your Case’s Burden of Proof

There’s no doubt about it that personal injury claims are always very complicated, and it only gets even more complicated when a plaintiff has to deal with an at-fault party’s insurance company and their convoluted deception tactics.

At DuBoff & Associates, we pride ourselves on being experts in proving everything that is needed in order to have a successful personal injury claim, and we’re always here to help you with your case’s burden of proof from the very first steps.

So if you believe you have a case that you’d like to pursue, contact us for a free consultation so we can go over the facts involved with your accident and set you up on the right track towards your right to compensation.

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