The Burden of Proof in Personal Injury Accident Litigation

By November 17, 2010 March 31st, 2018 Personal Injury

The average person will never need to understand what the “burden of proof” is or which burden of proof applies to a personal injury accident trial. It is one of those expressions that many people have heard on television but never really had a reason to understand. If you have been the victim of a personal injury accident, however, it is in your best interest to understand what the burden of proof is and how it applies to your personal injury case.

The meaning of the burden of proof has been defined by numerous scholars and courts over the years in a number of different ways. In essence, the burden of proof is the duty placed on a party to prove her case. Most people that have heard the term burden of proof associate it with a criminal prosecution. A criminal prosecution certainly has a burden of proof – beyond a reasonable doubt. Most people have heard the expression “beyond a reasonable doubt” and have some idea what it means. Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest burden of proof in the American judicial system. Beyond a reasonable doubt places the highest duty on the state to prove the defendant’s guilt. The Constitution of the United States actually requires the “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden of proof in criminal prosecutions to attempt to ensure that innocent people are not convicted of crimes. Civil cases, however, also have a burden of proof that must be met by the plaintiff (the person filing the case).

Civil cases in the United States generally require one of two levels of burden of proof: beyond a preponderance of the evidence or clear and convincing evidence. In most cases, a preponderance of the evidence burden of proof is applied to a personal injury accident case. So what does that mean for the plaintiff that has suffered injuries as a result of the defendant’s negligence? It means that in order to win the case and receive compensation for the injuries, the plaintiff must prove beyond a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was negligent. Just as with the “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden of proof, scholars and courts have also been attempting to define the “beyond a preponderance of the evidence” burden of proof for many years as well. It is a lesser burden than beyond a reasonable doubt -that much is clear. It is also clear that it requires the plaintiff to convince the jury that it is more likely than not that the defendant was negligent. Some scholars place the beyond a reasonable doubt burden around 95% certainty and the beyond a preponderance of the evidence burden at somewhere over 51% but less than 95%. The important thing to remember f you are the plaintiff is that while your attorney’s job may not be convince a jury to the extent required in a criminal prosecution, they must nevertheless be convinced in order for you to win your case and receive a compensation award.

If you would like additional information or a free and detailed evaluation of a potential personal injury case you may have, please contact California personal injury attorney Emery Ledger of Ledger & Associates at 1-800-300-0001 or visit him online at