Burden Of Proof In Injury Cases

The burden of proof refers to how convincing your case is to the judge or jury during a personal injury case. The burden of proof relies on the weight of the evidence you have. You win the case if you convince the judge or jury of your version of events, and you lose the case if you fail to convince the judge or jury at the end of the trial.

The Threshold

In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that their version of events is the right one. That is, the judge or jury must be fully or totally convinced that the defendant is guilty. Any small doubt may result in the defendant's acquittal. For example, the judge or jury may acquit the defendant if they think there is only a 70% chance that the defendant is guilty.

The threshold is much lower in a personal injury case where the plaintiff is only required to prove that their version of events is more likely than the alternative. This means the judge or jury should be convinced that the chance that your version of events is true is more than the chance that it is false. As such, a personal injury case plaintiff will win their case if they can just convince the judge or jury that they are at least 51% right.

The Application

In a personal injury case, you must have a legal basis or principle on which to base your claim. Each legal principle is made up of different parts, or elements, that you must prove to win your case. In a personal injury case, you must meet the threshold of proof for each element of the case. That is, for each element, you must prove that the 51% threshold of proof has been met.

An Example

Say you are pursuing a slip and fall case after getting injured in a mall; you can base your case on premises liability. Premises liability is a legal theory that holds property owners or managers liable for injuries that occur on their premises under certain circumstances. The elements of a premises liability claim vary by jurisdiction, but in general, you may be required to prove the following:

  • The defendant owns the property
  • The defendant owed you a duty of care
  • The defendant was negligent
  • You got injured
  • The defendant's negligence was the cause of your injuries

In this case, you need to prove that each of these elements is at least 51% true for your injury. You might lose your case even if you prove all but fail to prove one. For example, you might lose your case if the judge or jury is only 49% convinced that the defendant owed you a duty of care.

For more information, contact a personal injury lawyer.