blog home Personal Injury How the Burden of Proof Works in a Civil Injury Trial

How the Burden of Proof Works in a Civil Injury Trial

By Butler Prather LLP on October 5, 2022

The phrase “burden of proof” revolves around determining who is responsible for a particular event. You will hear this phrase come up in criminal cases as well as civil personal injury claims. However, the burden of proof for a civil claim is different than it is for a criminal case. For those who sustain injuries caused by the actions of someone else, the burden of proof lies with the injury victim. Here, we want to discuss what this means and how to establish proof.

Understanding a Preponderance of Evidence

When a prosecutor is trying to prove that someone committed a crime, they must prove this fact “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is a high bar when it comes to proof, but the bar is not this high for a civil personal injury claim.

When an injury victim and their attorney are trying to prove that an at-fault party was responsible for causing the injury, they must establish that a “preponderance of evidence” shows that the at-fault parties should be held liable.

A preponderance of evidence is simpler to arrive at than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but that does not mean that it is easy to prove. Whichever party, the plaintiff or the defendant, is able to demonstrate that their claims about the case are more than likely to be true will inevitably win the case.

How Does This Affect a Personal Injury Claim

The burden of proving a preponderance of evidence lies with the plaintiff (the injury victim). There are typically four elements of negligence that must be proven by the evidence available and presented at the civil trial.

  1. Duty. The first step is showing that the defendant did owe a duty of care to the plaintiff. Each personal injury claim is different, so the duty of care will look different depending on the situation. For example, commercial establishment owners owe a duty of care to any person who has a right to be on their premises, and this includes maintaining the premises in a way that there are no known hazards that could cause harm.
  2. Breach. The second element that must be shown is that the defendant somehow breached the duty of care that they owed the plaintiff. For example, a driver on the roadway would breach their duty of care owed to others by operating while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
  3. Causation. The third element that must be proven is that the breach of duty of care actually caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Just because a person breaches their duty does not necessarily mean that was the exact cause of the injury. However, a breach of duty often is the cause of the injury in question.
  4. Damages. The final element that must be shown is that the plaintiff sustained some sort of monetary loss as a result of the incident. This can include medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering damages, property damage expenses, and more.

If the plaintiff and their attorney can show that the defendant more than likely caused the injuries, then the claim will be successful in the defendant will be ordered to pay compensation to the plaintiff.

Posted in: Personal Injury

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