What Is Burden Of Proof in A Personal Injury Case?

What Is Burden Of Proof in A Personal Injury Case?
Calendar icon March 10, 2023


If you’ve sustained injuries after an accident, you may wonder what is required of you to collect a fair recovery for your damages. In order to successfully win your personal injury case, you’ll need to prove that another party acted in a negligent way – this is also known as the burden of proof.

So, what exactly is the burden of proof in a personal injury case, and how do you prove that negligence occurred?

What Is The Burden Of Proof?

In general, the “burden of proof” is the legal standard that a party must satisfy in order to succeed on his or her legal claim. In other words, the “burden of proof” refers to how much, or how valuable, of evidence a party must demonstrate in order to succeed in a lawsuit. The required proof level can vary depending on the context and severity of the claim being made. Generally speaking, only the party who files a claim has a burden of proof at trial.

Who Has The Burden Of Proof In A Personal Injury Case?

If you file a personal injury claim in the State of New York, the burden of proof falls solely on you as the plaintiff. This means you must present enough evidence to prove that the defendant was negligent and therefore liable for your injuries.

The defendant may choose to present evidence to refute any claims against him or her (and almost certainly will), but a defendant is not required to do so. Ultimately, because the plaintiff has affirmatively brought the lawsuit, it is the plaintiff’s responsibility to “make a case” in convincing the court or jury that he or she has been injured and is entitled to receive compensation for those injuries.

What Are The Most Common Burdens Of Proof?

For the majority of lawsuits, one of three burdens of proof must be met in order to win a case.

  1. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: This is the highest standard of proof that is used mainly in criminal trials. This requires the prosecution to prove their case to a level in which there is no reasonable amount of doubt in the jurors mind that the defendant is guilty.
  2. Clear and Convincing Evidence: This burden of proof is used in both criminal and civil cases. It is relevant in cases with a lower standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but a higher standard than “by a the preponderance of evidence”—for example, cases alleging fraud. Clear and convincing evidence requires the party with the burden to prove their claim is highly and substantially more likely to be true than not.
  3. Preponderance of the Evidence: This is the standard of proof used in most civil cases related to personal injury. It requires the plaintiff to prove their case by evidence that is more likely true than not. So, a plaintiff can demonstrate his or her claims by a preponderance of the evidence if he or she can demonstrate that there is more than a 50% chance that those claims are legitimate.

How Is The Burden Of Proof Different In A Civil Case vs. A Criminal Case?

In a civil case, like a personal injury lawsuit, the burden of proof falls solely on the plaintiff. The plaintiff must present enough evidence to convince the court that negligence did in fact exist, and that their version of events is more likely true than not true through a preponderance of evidence. In criminal cases, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution. This means that the prosecution must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime and is therefore guilty.

It’s worth noting that there is a higher standard for the burden of proof in criminal cases compared to civil court cases as the difference in the burden of proof reflects the severity of the consequences. In criminal cases, this can include fines, imprisonment, or other serious ramifications. In a civil case, the consequences are often limited to financial compensation.

How To Prove Negligence In Your Personal Injury Case

In order to prove negligence, you will need to establish that the other party owed you a duty of care, breached that duty of care, and caused you harm as a direct result. Here are the steps to proving negligence in your personal injury case:

  1. Establishing Duty of Care: First, you must prove that the defendant had a duty of care to you. In other words, you will need to demonstrate that the defendant had a responsibility to act reasonably and not cause you any harm.
  2. Showing A Breach In Duty of Care: To show that the other party breached their duty of care, you must prove that the party failed to act in a reasonable manner which resulted in harm to you.
  3. Prove Causation: Next, you’ll need to prove that the other party’s breach of care directly caused your injuries. You’ll need to prove that you would not have been injured if the defendant had not acted in a negligent manner.
  4. Demonstrate Your Damages: Finally, you’ll need to prove that you suffered damages which were a result of the accident with evidence. This can include apparent physical injuries, proof of lost wages, or other medical bills.

In order to properly demonstrate your damages and prove negligence, you will need evidence to support your claim. This can include anything from witness statements, medical records, paperwork proving that you lost wages, and expert testimonies. You’ll also need to make sure you present a strong enough argument to persuade the court that you are entitled to compensation for your injuries.

How A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help Build Your Case To Meet The Burden of Proof

A personal injury attorney can be an extremely valuable asset in building your case and meeting the burden of proof necessary. Here’s how an attorney can help you to receive maximum compensation for your injuries:

  1. Gathering evidence: Your attorney can help to gather and analyze evidence that supports your case. This can include interviewing witnesses, reviewing documents, and consulting with experts. Skilled attorneys will strategize how to best use and present the evidence available.
  2. Preparing legal arguments: Your attorney will prepare legal arguments and briefs that explain how the evidence supports your claims and meets the required burden of proof. Your attorney will also respond to any arguments the defense may raise in attempting to dismiss or narrow your claims.
  3. Presenting evidence in court: A skilled and experienced attorney will present evidence in court, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and strategically challenge or even disprove any evidence presented by the defense.
  4. Identifying weaknesses in the other side’s case: Your attorney can analyze the defendant’s evidence and arguments to identify weaknesses that can be used to undermine their case and strengthen yours.
  5. Negotiating settlements: At any point during the pre-trial stages of a lawsuit, your attorney can negotiate settlements with the other side in an effort to provide you with fair and just compensation without going to trial.

Overall, an experienced and skilled personal injury attorney will be able to offer the resources, experience and expertise that you may not have if you decide to follow through with the claim on your own.

Contact Cellino Law for Your Case Consultation

If you’ve been injured, don’t wait to contact a trusted personal injury attorney. The team at Cellino Law has decades of hard-fought experience both inside and out of the courtroom to help you prove your case and meet the burden of proof necessary to win.

Contact us today at 888-888-8888 for a free, no-risk case consultation with one of our attorneys today.

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Content checked by the personal injury attorney Ross Cellino. As a family man and a trial attorney, I pride myself on winning cases and serving the community. With over 35 years of experience, I understand the function of a jury, how juries arrive at conclusions, and the role that the jury plays in administering justice. I know how to win cases. You can find us in Manhattan, Buffalo, Melville, Rochester, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and other locations throughout New York.

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