Understanding Preponderance of the Evidence

preponderance of the evidence

We often mention that in order for a personal injury plaintiff to win his case, he must “prove” his case. But what, exactly, does that mean?

It means that you must establish certain legal elements of your legal action —duty, breach, causation and damages—to a certain level of legal certainty.

What is that level of legal certainty?

Well, for civil personal injury cases, it is “preponderance of the evidence.”

Standards of Proof

Each legal case has a different standard of proof that is required for the plaintiff to establish his or her claims.

It is this standard of proof that determines how much evidence the plaintiff must put forth to convince the judge or jury in his favor.

There are varying standards of proof, depending on the legal issues involved and whether the matter is civil, criminal, or administrative.

For criminal cases, the standard of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This does not mean beyond all doubt— rather, it requires proving a defendant’s guilt to the extent that no other conclusion (other than the defendant’s guilt) would be reasonable.

In civil litigation, there are generally two different standards of proof:

  1. Preponderance of the evidence
  2. Clear and convincing evidence

Each one of these standards of proof has its own requirements.

We will discuss the preponderance of the evidence standard in more detail shortly. But for now, you may be asking yourself why does it matter what the standard of proof is?

Why The Standard of Proof in Your Case Matters

Why is it important that you understand the standard of proof that applies to your personal injury case?

It is important because it is the burden of proof that protects innocent people from unjust, abusive, or unfair litigation.

If you are the plaintiff in a personal injury case, you must understand that you have a legal duty to establish the facts of your case and to prove that it was indeed—and in fact—the defendant named in your complaint and not someone else—who caused your injuries.

You do this by carrying your burden of production—i.e., producing evidence— and your burden of persuasion—proving that it was more likely than not that this defendant is the person liable for your damages.

By requiring the plaintiff to establish his or her claims in this way, our legal system protects innocent parties from being unjustly accused and held responsible for paying for injuries they did not cause.

Preponderance of the Evidence

Most civil personal injury cases require that a plaintiff prove his or her claims by a “preponderance of the evidence.”

This standard of proof requires that the plaintiff prove that the defendant “more likely than not” caused plaintiff’s damages.

“More likely than not” is not a very high standard of proof.

In fact, it is the least onerous standard of proof to meet. It is certainly less rigorous than criminal law’s “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. But it is also less than the “clear and convincing evidence” standard required in some civil cases.

“Clear and convincing evidence” requires a plaintiff to prove that a fact in his case is “substantially more likely than not” true. Obviously, this is a higher burden than the “more likely than not” requirement of a personal injury case.

Although the preponderance of the evidence is not a very high burden of proof, it can be difficult to meet your evidentiary burden. This is why it is important to always consult with a personal injury attorney about the facts of your case.

Knowing your burden of proof, how, then, do you prove that the defendant ‘more likely than not” caused your injuries?

How Do You Meet Your Burden of Proof in a Personal Injury Case?

You do it by introducing evidence supporting the facts of your case. Working with  your personal injury attorney, you may present evidence in the form of:

  • Witness testimony
  • Physical evidence – photographs, documents, etc.
  • Expert testimony
  • Financial records showing damage and loss
  • Medical records

If, after submitting all your evidence, the jury finds that your version of the facts is “more likely than not” true, you will have carried your burden of persuasion.

Having an experienced personal injury attorney to help you will greatly improve your chances of success.

Orange Park, Florida, Personal Injury Attorneys.

John Fagan and his experienced team are dedicated to helping those who have been injured due to the negligence of another. Contact us for your free consultation now, or call our firm at 777-JOHN. We serve clients throughout Florida. Our main office is in Orange Park. In addition, we have consulting offices in Palatka, Middleburg, Keystone, Starke, Gainesville, and Ocala.

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