The Burden of Proof in Injury Lawsuits

By Chris Dixon

Courts need to reach what is known as the Burden of Proof in order to make a final judgment. This includes testimonies by witnesses, medical documents, and other pieces of evidence that are satisfactory enough to settle a case.

Burden of Proof in Criminal Cases

The burden of proof needed to reach a verdict on a criminal case is a little more stringent than a civil case. Prosecutors and the jury need to know that the accusations and evidence add up to “Beyond Reasonable Doubt” in criminal trials. This is why criminal cases can take months or even years; the prosecution has to eliminate any seed of doubt in the minds of the judge and jury while batting back at the defense’s legal team. In these situations, things like DNA evidence or video footage have become a major factor.

Common considerations when determining burden of proof include:

  • Substantial Evidence
  • Reasonable Suspicion
  • Probable Cause
  • Preponderance of Evidence
  • Reasonable Suspicion

In criminal cases, prosecutors attempt to provide the “Burden of Persuasion,” which is convincing the court that a propsition is true, and the “Burden of Production,” which are facts to back it up.

When the term “burden of proof” is used, it usuallly refers to a trial where one party is obligated to produce evidence that persuades a jury that their claims are true. The defense and prosecution are usually contesting from being wrong, to being right, then to being wrong again. The goal of a defense attorney is to prove that their client couldn’t possibly have performed a criminal act while the prosecution attempts to prove that the defendant absolutely did that act beyond a reasonable doubt.

Burden of Proof in Civil Cases

In contrast to proof needed in criminal cases, civil lawsuits have a lower threshold. In a personal injury case, for example, the plaintiff (the injured victim) and their lawyer(s) have to prove negligence or fault by preponderance of evidence. The preponderance of evidence refers to meeting a court’s evidentiary standard needed to win that type of civil case.

To put it another way, to win a civil case, you need to meet a certain level of preponderance to reach that burden of proof. When your attorney brings a personal injury case, their job is to prove the negligent acts against their plaintiff (victim) were more likely to be true than not true.

Once the preponderance of evidence tips one way or another, most civil cases come to a close. If you (the injured plaintiff) produced enough evidence to show negligence or wrongdoing, you’ll likely win the case. If the opposite happens, you’ll likely lose. After a verdict was reached (i.e. the defendant was found to be acting negligent), the jury or often a judge would add up the monetary damages and decide on a settlment.

Proving Negligence in Personal Injury Cases

Winning an insurance claim is complicated, but not impossible. One of the keys is moving quickly and getting all of your information in a row. The first real step is the demand letter, wherein you’ll lay out your case, the monetary damages against you (or a deceased family member), details like witness testimonies, medical expenses, medical records that show the injuries, any pain and suffering, and other damages that equal a reasonable settlment number.

The negligent party or their insurers will either A) Settle, B) Reject the demand letter, or C) Send a counteroffer. When there is a lower counteroffer, questions poking holes in your demand letter, or the insurer/negligent party ignores you, it’s time to contact a personal injury attorney that has experience dealing with insurance claims. At the Dixon Injury Firm, we’ve recovered more than $35,000,000 for injury victims and their families in the Greater St. Louis area and Illinois. We’d be happy to discuss our services with you and provide a free consultation and case review.

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