How Does the Burden of Proof Apply to Negligence Claims?

Published on Feb 13, 2020 at 12:48 pm in Personal Injury.

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If you’re in the process of filing a personal injury claim, you’ll benefit from understanding how it works and what a successful claim looks like. When it comes to proving you’re deserving of compensation for your injuries and losses, your attorney will need to build a claim that meets the burden of proof. This legal term refers to being able to believe something beyond a certain level of doubt.

The lawyers at Belsky & Horowitz, LLC understand how confusing and complicated civil cases can seem when you’re dealing with legal terminology. That’s why we make sure to break the information down for our clients so it’s digestible and they feel comfortable with how their cases are being handled. Let’s take a closer look at how the burden of proof applies to negligence claims.

The Burden of Proof and Negligence Claims

In the context of a negligence claim, the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff. They must prove the defendant acted in a manner that caused their injuries or losses. The challenge comes with presenting the claim in a convincing manner. It’s important for the plaintiff to meet the judge’s or jury’s standard for the burden of proof.

With the burden of proof, the plaintiff has to satisfy the burden of production. This means that there must be evidence in the form of documents, objects, or witness testimony that can drive the claim forward. Their version of what happened needs to be “more likely than not.” After that, the defendant has the opportunity to present their own evidence in an attempt to rebut the plaintiff’s evidence or support their own argument. It’s important to note that the defendant is not required to prove their version of the events.

Evidence Standards in Civil Cases

After the plaintiff has satisfied the burden of production, the second component they must meet is the burden of persuasion. That burden determines the standard of proof the plaintiff has to present to the judge or jury. In most cases, one of two different standards of proof will be required: preponderance of the evidence and clear and convincing evidence.

Preponderance of the evidence is required in the majority of personal injury cases. This standard requires the jury to return a judgment in favor of the plaintiff. To do so, the plaintiff has to present their evidence in a way that makes it more likely than not to have occurred, putting the chances at higher than 50 percent.

While uncommon, some personal injury cases require an elevated burden of proof. This higher standard is referred to as clear and convincing evidence. This means the plaintiff has to prove there is a high probability of their alleged facts being true. This burden of proof is typically reserved for claims where more than money is at stake.

Defenses to Negligence Claims

The party you’re seeking compensation from will likely try to negate your evidence by introducing their own that weakens your claim. The points they present are referred to as affirmative defenses. Some of the most common include:

  • Plaintiff’s Comparative Fault. The defendant will use this defense if they believe you were partially or entirely at fault for the event that injured you. They may request their portion of the fault be reduced based on your actions leading up to the accident. This is a common defense after a car accident. If you were checking your phone when you were rear-ended at a traffic light, the opposing driver could claim you were distracted.
  • Running the Statute of Limitations. The statute of limitations establishes the time you have to file your claim in the court system. If that time has passed, the defendant can ask for your claim to be dismissed.
  • Failure to State a Cause of Action. This means the defendant is claiming your complaint does not contain enough information to warrant legal action against them.
  • Failure to Mitigate Damages. A defendant will use this defense if they believe the plaintiff failed to take reasonable steps to minimize or prevent the risk factors related to the accident. A manufacturer could use this in a product liability claim if they believe the plaintiff failed to exercise caution based on the product’s warning labels.
  • Assumption of Risk. This defense comes up when the defendant believes the plaintiff knew about the hazard that caused their injuries. For example, a homeowner could claim a visitor should have been aware of the potential for icy, slippery sidewalks if it was snowing at the time they fell.

No matter what affirmative defense the opposing side uses, our lawyers will be sure to present your claim in an ironclad manner.

The Difference an Experienced Law Firm Makes

When you decide to work with our law firm to tackle your personal injury claim, you’ll be on your way to receiving the compensation you need to recover from the losses you’ve experienced. Working with a skilled and experienced law firm is crucial, especially when you’re dealing with a complex claim. Not only will we have the knowledge needed to develop a strong claim, but we’ll also have access to resources that support your case.

If you’ve been injured because of someone else’s negligent actions and are looking to expedite your recovery, schedule a case review today. We’ll review the details of your situation and provide you with sound legal advice on how to proceed based on your unique circumstances.



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