Why Your Burden of Proof Is Important in Your Personal Injury Case
While most personal injury cases settle, there are times when the negligent party or his insurance company will not offer enough money to make settlement possible. In these cases, the injured party must take his case to trial—often in a jury trial. If this occurs, he will be responsible for meeting his burden of proof in order to receive the compensation he deserves. But what does this really mean?
What Is the Burden of Proof in Personal Injury Lawsuits?
In all legal cases, whether they are civil or criminal matters, there is a threshold that a party seeking to prove a fact or element of his claim must meet to have the fact or element of the claim established. This is referred to as the burden of proof. In criminal cases, the prosecutor’s burden of proof is to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a much higher standard of proof than in civil cases.
In civil lawsuits, the plaintiff must prove his case by a preponderance of the evidence. Each element of the claim must be established in this fashion. In a car accident case, this means that the plaintiff must prove the following: the defendant’s duty to him, that the defendant breached his duty, that the breach of duty caused his injuries, and that the plaintiff suffered damages. Ways to understand this burden of proof include:
- The plaintiff must prove that his version is more likely true than not true. For example, in a car accident case, the plaintiff must prove that it was more likely true than not true that the other driver’s negligence caused his injuries.
- Another way to understand this is that the plaintiff must tip the scales of justice more in his favor than in the favor of defendant. Attorneys often use this to explain the burden of proof to juries. At the start of the trial the scales are equal at 50 percent for the plaintiff and the defendant. Using the evidence presented, such as witnesses, expert witnesses, photographs, medical bills, and proof of lost wages, the plaintiff must convince the jury or judge that the scales are tipped at least 51 percent or more in his favor to win his case.
The burden of proof can be important in settlement negotiations too. Insurance adjusters and the defendant’s attorney will consider the likelihood that the plaintiff could win—and meet his burden of proof—at trial in considering whether to settle a case and how much to offer in compensation.
If you or a loved one was injured due to a business’ or person’s negligence, call me at 888.716.8021 to schedule a free consultation to learn about your legal options and what you will need to prove to win your case.