What Is The Burden Of Proof?

Burden-of-Proof-300x200Under New York law, a victim who pursues damages, also known as a plaintiff, has the burden of proof. In other words, the plaintiff must present evidence to establish the legal elements required to prove the particulars of their claim.  

An Affirmative Defense Can Shift The Burden Of Proof

The person or entity being sued, also known as the defendant, is not legally obligated to prove or disprove anything. This means that the defendant does not have to provide any evidence in their defense. If the plaintiff cannot prove all of the elements of their case by a preponderance of the evidence, the defendant will not be held accountable. Nevertheless, the burden of proof can shift if the defendant raises an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense, such as the assumption of risk or comparative fault, can mitigate the consequences of the defendant’s negligent actions against the plaintiff. 

Personal Injury Lawsuits Versus Criminal Trials

When the phrase “burden of proof” comes to mind, most people think about the legal standard required for convictions in criminal cases, “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt means that the prosecution must provide enough evidence to remove any question in the jurors’ minds that the defendant committed the crime that they are being tried for. However, the burden of proof in civil cases, such as car accidents, dog bites, slips and falls, or food poisonings, is “preponderance of the evidence.” A preponderance of the evidence means that the plaintiff’s evidence shows that it is more likely than not that the defendant was responsible for causing the plaintiff’s damages.

For example, O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder in the criminal trial of the century. The criminal jury could not conclude that Simpson committed 1st-degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt. However, plaintiffs in the wrongful death lawsuit only had to prove that Simpson’s intentional and unlawful conduct led to the victims’ deaths. Despite being found not guilty in the criminal trial, a civil jury later found that it was likely that Simpson killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. This example clearly illustrates the disparity between the extremely high burden of proof needed for a criminal conviction and the significantly lower burden of proof required to demonstrate liability in civil litigation.

Call A Highly-Qualified Personal Injury Lawyer Now! 

The Dietrich Law Firm P.C.’s battle-tested team can evaluate your claim to determine whether it can satisfy the burden of proof required in a personal injury lawsuit. Retain Jed Dietrich, Esq., recognized as an American Institute of Trial Lawyers Litigator of the Year, and his elite team of litigators to begin strengthening your case to ensure that the responsible party is held liable. Due to our utmost dedication to every case and extensive litigation experience, we regularly obtain six and seven-figure settlements and verdicts for our clients. Please, contact us to set up a meeting by completing our online consultation form or calling 716-839-3939.

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