The Burden of Proof: What is it and How Does It Apply to My Personal Injury Case?

If you have been injured in an accident caused by another’s actions, you may have the ability to seek compensation for your injuries from the at-fault party.

To do that, however, you must meet what is called a burden of proof to pursue a personal injury claim or lawsuit successfully. 

What is the Burden of Proof?

Just because you get hurt in an accident doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically have the right to file a lawsuit.

There are accidents, and then there are accidents that are caused by someone else’s negligence

In a personal injury case, another party’s negligence must have been a factor in the accident. In order to collect compensation for injuries, the injured party, or the plaintiff, has the “burden” to prove that the other party acted negligently, and these actions caused their injuries and damages. 

The Burden of Proof in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

A personal injury lawsuit is a civil case. In a criminal case, the standard of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a civil lawsuit, however, the standard of proof is based on a “preponderance of evidence.” This threshold of proof means that evidence brought by the injured victim must prove that the other party, or defendant, was more than 50 percent likely to have caused the accident due to his or her actions. 

When a personal injury case goes to court, there are no separate accounts of the accident. While a plaintiff must meet the burden of proof that their version of the accident is more likely, the at-fault party, or the defendant, can dispute enough of the claim to cause the judge or jury to disbelieve the likeliness of some of the circumstances presented. This can make a personal injury lawsuit particularly complicated. 

Negligence and Personal Injury Lawsuits

In most personal injury cases, the victim must prove that the defendant acted negligently.

The concept of negligence is based on whether or not the defendant acted as a reasonable person would have acted in the same circumstances. 

Negligence is broken down into specific elements, each needing to be proven to be successful in a personal injury lawsuit.

The key elements of negligence are:

  • Duty of care: The defendant must have owed a duty of care to the injured party. Duty of care is the responsibility that we all have for acting in a reasonably safe manner. Duty also considers foreseeability. Could the defendant have reasonably foreseen that their actions could have harmed someone?
  • Breach of duty: It must be proven that the defendant, in their actions, breached that duty by failing to exercise care. 
  • Cause: The injured party must prove that the defendant’s breach, or unsafe actions, caused their injuries. In other words, the injuries were a natural and uninterrupted consequence of the defendant’s actions and would not have happened otherwise. 
  • Damages: Economic and non-economic damages were suffered as the result of the accident. 

Although most personal injury cases center around the negligence of another party, some do not require proof of negligence. 

These can be in cases of intentional acts, “negligence per se,” or strict liability:

  • Lawsuits involving intentional conduct are those civil lawsuits that consider injuries that resulted from things such as assault or other intentional acts.
  • Negligence per se is when the defendant was breaking the law at the time of the accident. This will make the defendant automatically liable for damages. 
  • Strict liability — In some cases, liability is inherent, and proving negligence is not necessary. These typically concern cases of dangerous activities or defective products. 

While the elements of negligence may seem simple and straightforward, proving them in a court of law can be more complicated, especially in cases where there are multiple different variables. 

How the Burden of Proof Affects Your Particular Case

Because, as the injured party, your burden of proof means that you must offer enough evidence to prove that your injuries were over 50 percent likely to have been caused by the defendant, your evidence must be clear, complete, and as extensive as possible.

Consequently, a Boca Raton personal injury lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation of the accident or incident, looking for as much evidence as possible to support your claim. 

This evidence can include:

Documentation

Documents that support your injuries are extremely integral to a personal injury case. These will include any information regarding your injuries from medical professionals and incident reports. Medical bills, proof of lost income, receipts for costs or damage repairs, and any other supporting evidence to prove your damages are essential to your case and strengthen your position. 

Evidence From the Scene of the Accident 

Whenever an accident occurs, photos and video from the scene of the accident can often tell a compelling story. The court will consider evidence from the accident location, damage, skid marks, or other evidence that suggests how the accident took place and who and what was to blame. 

Today, there are many resources to obtain good photographic or video evidence from dashcams, surveillance cameras, street cameras, and other security cameras that may have captured the details of an accident or incident. 

Witness Testimony

Getting witness testimony from the scene of the accident can help piece together what happened and who was to blame. Other professional witnesses, such as professional medical witnesses and accident recreation engineers give further insight into your injuries or the way that the car accident most likely happened. 

Because the plaintiff has the burden of proof in a personal injury claim, it’s important for accident victims to seek help from an experienced attorney.

One Exception to the Rule: Slip and Fall Accidents

In Florida, there is one exception to this general rule of thumb. In slip and fall accident cases, there’s a higher burden on injured parties.

In order to recover compensation, a slip and fall accident victim must prove that the owner has “actual or constructive knowledge” of the hazard that caused them to fall. This goes above and beyond convincing a jury that their version of events is more believable than a shop owner’s. 

Having the skill of an experienced Boca Raton personal injury lawyer is critical to establish fault and causation in order to meet your burden of proof in a personal injury case. When your compensation for injuries is at stake, it is essential to have an injury lawyer on your side.