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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

The Role of the Burden of Proof in a Personal Injury Case

To recover damages following an accident, the injured victim must convince the judge, jury, or the insurance company that the at-fault party was negligent. This is commonly referred to as the burden of proof, which is essential in determining the outcome of personal injury lawsuits or claims.


Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys have extensive experience successfully representing injured victims and protecting their rights. They can give insight on assumption of risk in a personal injury case. Those who have suffered injuries in Nashville, Tennessee, must reach out to them to discuss their case and learn more about their legal options.


What Is the Burden of Proof in a Personal Injury Case?

What Is the Burden of Proof in a Personal Injury Case?


When an individual suffers injuries in an accident caused by another's negligence, they may be able to bring a personal injury claim or lawsuit against the negligent party.


However, since they're the ones bringing a civil action, they have the "burden of proof" and must establish liability by providing convincing evidence.


The Standards of the Burden of Proof


There are two different standards of the burden of proof, and these are as follows:


Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (Criminal Cases)


During criminal trials, the prosecutor has the legal burden of proof to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the criminal offenses. It is the responsibility of the prosecution to present evidence and convince the jury at trial that there is no other reasonable explanation.


Beyond a reasonable doubt is a far greater burden of proof standard than the one applied to personal injury cases. This is because convicting a defendant in a criminal case can have serious repercussions on their life, and the jury must be certain that the defendant committed the offense. If there is a slight doubt, the prosecution cannot convict the defendant. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also answer questions such as, what does statute of limitations mean?


The Preponderance of the Evidence (Personal Injury Cases)


In personal injury cases, the legal standard of the burden of proof is the preponderance of the evidence. This refers to a threshold that the plaintiff or injured party must meet to be able to recover compensation from the defendant.


When pursuing a personal injury case, the affected party must prove that the defendant is "more likely than not" to have caused their injuries. In other words, the plaintiff must establish that the at-fault party is more than 50% likely to have caused the accident due to their actions.


In cases where the personal injury case ends up in court, the legal standard remains the same for the plaintiff. They must prove that the defendant was more likely than not responsible for their injuries. At the same time, the at-fault party must refute the evidence submitted, which is why it is more challenging to pursue a personal injury lawsuit than an accident claim.


How Can a Plaintiff Meet the Burden of Proof in a Civil Case?


Whether it is personal injury claims or lawsuits, the plaintiff or the affected party has the burden of proof to prove negligence in order to recover compensation.


To establish negligence, the plaintiff must provide clear and convincing evidence of the following four elements:

  • Duty of care: The defendant owed the plaintiff the duty of care

  • Breach: The defendant breached the duty of care by acting negligently

  • Causation: The plaintiff suffered injuries due to the defendant's negligence

  • Damages: The injuries resulted in damages to the plaintiff

The plaintiff has the burden of proof and must prove each of the four elements by the preponderance of the evidence.


Phone records, for example, may be able to prove that the defendant was texting or talking before the accident, suggesting that their negligence resulted in the car accident.


Evidence That the Plaintiff May Submit to Meet the Burden of Proof


The plaintiff must provide evidence to prove each of the elements of negligence, including the following:

  • Medical bills and treatment records: By submitting medical records and bills, the injured party can prove that they suffered injuries following the accident and are actively seeking treatment.

  • Witness testimonies: A witness statement can be a powerful tool that can help bolster a personal injury claim or lawsuit. It can help establish the defendant's negligence and its role in causing injuries to the plaintiff.

  • Photographs and videos: Pictures or videos of the accident scene can help establish how the incident unfolded and any injuries sustained by the parties.

There are many different types of evidence that the plaintiff can submit to prove the elements of negligence, such as payslips, expert testimonies, and phone records, among others.


It is important to understand that a piece of evidence can make or break a case, and proving negligence can be challenging.


Injured victims must contact experienced personal injury lawyers to help establish the critical elements of negligence and increase their chances of financial recovery.


How Does the Burden of Proof Apply to the Defendant?

How Does the Burden of Proof Apply to the Defendant?


Under personal injury law, the defendant does not have to prove that their version of events is accurate. It is the responsibility of the plaintiff to establish the elements of negligence and demonstrate that the at-fault party is more than 50% likely to have caused the accident or their injuries.


The defendant has the right to present evidence contradicting the plaintiff's story. However, the jury does not need convincing that the defendant's version of the events is accurate. The defendant's evidence only needs to cast a shadow of doubt over the claims made by the plaintiff.


There is an exception to this rule. When using affirmative defense in civil cases, the defendants must provide additional facts that take precedence over the plaintiff's evidence.


In such situations, the defendant must prove the elements of the affirmative defense and establish that the evidence provided is more likely than not true.


Below is an illustration of how the burden of proof may apply to an affirmative defense:


Jackson decides to go rock climbing and suffers injuries after he loses his grip and falls to the ground. He brings a personal injury case against Roland, who owns the company that organizes rock climbing events, to pursue the damages incurred following the incident. However, Roland uses the assumption of risk and submits a waiver signed by Jackson that releases the company and its founder from all liability.


In the example above, Jackson has the burden of proof and must convince the jury that Roland is more likely than not responsible for his injuries. However, Roland uses the assumption of risk as an affirmative defense and provides evidence (liability waiver) that absolves all liability. The jury might side with Roland, as Jackson knowingly and willingly went rock climbing despite the risks.


Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Can Help the Injured Victims Meet the Burden of Proof!


Those who have suffered injuries due to another's negligence in Nashville, Tennessee, should call to schedule a free consultation with Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys. They can help assess the facts surrounding their case, gather evidence to meet the burden of proof, and fight for the compensation the injured victim deserves.

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