What is the Burden of Proof in a Civil Case?

If you are seeking financial compensation in a civil lawsuit, you will have the burden of proof squarely on you. If you want to be paid for your injuries, you will need to have enough evidence to show what happened.

Even though the burden of proof in personal injury claims is lower than the one in criminal cases, you still need to provide evidence to win your case.

This requirement means that you will need an experienced attorney for your legal proceeding if you want to persuade the jury.

In any civil case, you must prove that the defendant acted with negligence in order to be able to receive financial compensation. In claims involving negligence, you must have sufficient evidence to carry your burden of proof.

The burden of proof is on you in civil litigation. It does not matter what actually happened to cause your accident. It matters more what you can prove and how much evidence you have in your favor. The evidence presented will determine your success.

Scale of Justice in a Civil Claims

In a civil claim to recover compensation for personal injuries or wrongful death, the standard is preponderance of evidence.

The Standard of Proof in Civil Cases

When you are presenting evidence in civil cases, you must understand the legal standard necessary for you to win your case.

Your civil burden of proof in your case is that you show your case by a preponderance of the evidence.

The law requires you to show that your facts are more likely than not to have occurred, making the other party liable to pay for things like your personal injury and property damage.

The preponderance of the evidence legal standard applies to all types of personal injury lawsuit cases. It is used for an auto accident claim and a slip and fall lawsuit. It is even used for more complex personal injury cases, such as medical malpractice claims.

Preponderance of the Evidence Is Less than Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

If we had to put a number on what preponderance of the evidence means, it would be 50.1%. This is the numerical way of saying that you have proven that your claims are more likely than not to be true.

You just need to make it over the bar of 50-50 in order to meet your burden of proof and win your case. In your case, showing that there is a “high probability” that something happened means that you have just made it past the halfway point.

Nonetheless, there is still a chance that you may not meet your burden of proof in a civil lawsuit. Oftentimes, when a case does go to trial, the defendant does not believe that the facts mean that they need to settle the case. Sometimes, they win at trial.

Other times, they will pay a large price because the jury will hit them with a large verdict.

Preponderance of the Evidence Is Also Less Than Clear and Convincing Evidence

There is another standard that is used in other non-criminal cases that is called clear and convincing proof. This is relied on in child custody and probate cases. This is the next step up from the preponderance of the evidence standard used in civil cases.

This standard goes above the “50 percent plus” that is required in a civil lawsuit, but is less than the 100% required in a criminal case. On the continuum of evidence presented, this requires “significantly more” than the preponderance of evidence standard.

There Is a Higher Standard in Criminal Cases

In criminal trials, there is a far higher evidence standard at play. There is a legal requirement that the prosecutor prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the act.

This is a far tougher standard than the preponderance of the evidence standard. Because the defendant’s freedom is at stake, and civil liberties are at issue for the defendant accused, the justice system is much more exacting in criminal cases.

However, this does not mean that the burden of proof will be taken lightly in civil legal proceedings.

How the Prosecution Establishes Guilt

In a criminal lawsuit, there are far different circumstances. Not only is there a degree of certainty that is needed to convict a defendant, but the prosecutor will need to prove every single element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

In a criminal case, the proof lies in the exact evidence that the prosecution establishes. The defendant has the legal right to that evidence and their own chance to cast doubt on it.

What Reasonable Doubt Means

The legal system prevents a conviction if there is any reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt. The defendant does not need to prove innocence. The burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove their case. If they fail to do so, the defendant cannot be convicted of the crime.

In any criminal case, the defendant will be able to offer defenses that can negate the prosecution’s contentions.

They may show there is other reasonable explanation for their actions that shows that they did not have the intent to commit a crime. If they can show that a reasonable explanation exists for what they did, the court may not convict them of the crime.

One such explanation is self defense. For example, in any case that involves a charge of assault or other violent conduct, the defendant could show that they acted that way in order to prevent damage to person or property.

Another defense that a defendant can use is that they acted accidentally or did not have the required intent to commit a crime. Many criminal cases require that the defendant acted intentionally.

Defendants often argue that they did not know that a certain action was wrong or that they acted by accident.

How to Meet Your Burden of Proof

There are a number of ways that you can prove your case. When the plaintiff files a civil lawsuit, they start with their own word about what happened to cause their injuries.

The defendant may have their own side of the story. In order to break through the logjam of competing stories, you need to have your own evidence that shows that your side of the story is more probable than the defendant’s.

The most common way that civil plaintiffs demonstrate and prove facts is through witness testimony. An objective third party who saw what happened is the most effective means of persuading a jury of facts. Witness testimonies are the first thing that your lawyer will attempt to use.

Before you call a witness to testify, you should take steps to establish that they are credible because the defendant will get a chance to cross-examine the witness.

There are other pieces of evidence that the plaintiff can use to help bolster their case to the judge or jury. They include:

  • Pictures of the scene of the accident
  • Video camera footage of what happened
  • Documentary evidence, such as emails and corporate records that could show what a defendant did or did not do
  • Expert witness testimony from a qualified person who has the ability to offer an opinion

The evidence that could prove your case all depends on the facts and circumstances. One of the key tasks that your lawyer will perform early in your case is to begin to gather the proof that you need for your case. If you do not act quickly, this evidence can be lost to you forever.

This is exactly why you need to call a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your case. They will begin an immediate investigation that could result in you getting the evidence that you need to carry your burden of proof.

Call Us for a Free Case Evaluation

If you have been injured in an accident, you may file a personal injury lawsuit. The attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers help injured clients with civil lawsuits when someone else has caused harm with their negligence.

We can explain your legal position to the jury and work for you to obtain financial compensation. Call us today at (888) 424-5757 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation. You owe us nothing unless we win your case.