Understanding the Burden of Proof and How it Impacts Your Cases

Mar 30, 2022

People who decide to file civil lawsuits are faced with the burden of having to prove their case. This differs greatly from criminal cases where it’s up to a prosecutor to prove a defendant’s guilt to a judge or a jury.

Since jail time is not a punishment in civil cases and the defendant isn’t potentially losing their freedom, the plaintiff does not have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, the case is decided on the preponderance standard, which means the plaintiff must prove there’s a more than 50 percent chance that their claim is valid.

Gathering and showcasing evidence can be overwhelming for the average person. Working with an experienced and knowledgeable civil law attorney is the most reliable way to build a compelling case and win damages.

Burden of Proof in a Civil Case

Often, people who’ve been injured because of someone else’s negligence find that negotiating with insurance companies is difficult. Perhaps you’ve suffered personal injuries due to a car accident that wasn’t your fault, but the responsible parity’s insurance company isn’t offering enough compensation to cover your medical expenses.

At that point you may consider hiring a personal injury lawyer. The attorney will begin by negotiating with the insurance company on your behalf. If they can’t reach a fair agreement, your lawyer will file a complaint in civil court.

A plaintiff who brings their civil lawsuit to court must present factual evidence to support their position. During the pre-trial and discovery phase of the trial, both the plaintiff and the defendant will gather evidence and share it with the opposing party and court. Typically, the court will decide which evidence is admissible.

The types of evidence you see portrayed in movie and TV legal procedural dramas, like weapons or DNA samples, won’t typically be part of a civil lawsuit (unless you’re trying to establish paternity). The types of evidence more commonly presented in civil court include things like:

  • Relevant documents, like medical bills or medical records
  • Written correspondence between you and the defendant
  • Witness testimony
  • Expert testimony
  • Photographs and videos
  • Physical items, like defective products

Are There Different Burdens of Proof in Civil Cases?

Yes, the American legal system allows for three different burdens of proof depending on the type and severity of a case:

  • Beyond a reasonable doubt: This type of proof is characteristic of criminal cases where the defendant may face jail time. This is the highest burden of proof and is the hardest to satisfy.
  • Clear and convincing: This type of proof is considered a step below the beyond a reasonable doubt standard but still requires evidence that shows high probability. Clear and convincing evidence is needed in cases involving more than money, such as a restraining order hearing or custody battles.
  • Preponderance of the evidence: This is the lowest standard of proof and is typically required in civil law cases. The evidence is supposed to show the claim is at least 50 percent valid and applies to cases where a plaintiff is only seeking monetary damages.

Which Type of Burden of Proof Is Needed in Personal Injury Cases?

Typically, personal injury trials require plaintiffs to meet the lowest standard of proof, which is the preponderance of evidence. Since the only thing at stake is money, the evidence doesn’t have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the negligence occurred and was responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Atlanta Personal Injury Attorneys Who Understand How to Build Cases

Establishing proof can be a burdensome and overwhelming experience. Gathering and presenting evidence is a technical process governed by strict legal rules, which is why working with a personal injury attorney is usually a necessity for the average injured person.

At the Dressie Law Firm, we do our best to negotiate fair claim settlements before a long and drawn-out trial takes place. If the insurance company refuses to pay you adequate compensation, our skilled injury attorneys will help you build the strongest possible case.

For more information or to schedule a free consultation, call (678) 679-0569.