Most of us have seen a dramatic movie scene where an attorney utters the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Although this is a valid standard of proof, it does not apply to every single case.
What is the burden of proof in a Virginia civil case?
The phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” defines the burden of proof as it applies to a criminal case, but it does not apply to personal injury cases. Knowing and understanding the burden of proof as it pertains to your personal injury case is important and can provide you with some important insights if you are considering filing a civil suit.
If you have questions regarding a potential personal injury case, call the Virginia Beach personal injury law firm of Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp today to schedule a free consultation.
What Does Burden of Proof Mean?
The legal benchmark for proving a case in court is known as the burden of proof. Although the concept appears straightforward, it can be complex due to the different standards of proof applied to different kinds of cases.
For instance, in a criminal case, the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime with which they are charged. Of all proof standards, this is the highest burden. The prosecution must establish that, based on the available evidence, the only sensible conclusion to be drawn is that the defendant committed the crime.
In any given legal proceeding, the burden of proof is used to establish how strong the evidence put forth by one party needs to be to prove the other party’s liability or guilt in a matter. Additionally, in claims involving multiple elements, the plaintiff is required to meet the burden of proof for each one.
The Standard For a Personal Injury Case
In civil cases, the standard of proof is called a “preponderance of the evidence.” In a personal injury case, the plaintiff has to show that their claim is more likely to be true than not when compared to the defendant’s case. A preponderance of the evidence is one of the lowest burdens of proof.
This standard is sometimes explained as displaying greater than a 50% chance that the plaintiff is being truthful. A 50% chance is not enough. It has to be greater than half; a preponderance (majority) of the evidence.
In order to win a personal injury case, plaintiffs are required to meet the burden of proof for four distinct elements. Those elements are:
- Duty: The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. In other words, they were expected to act the way a reasonable person would have acted in the same or a similar situation to avoid causing injuries to another person.
- Breach: Through negligence, recklessness, or malfeasance, the defendant breached their duty of care.
- Causation: As a direct result of the breach, the plaintiff was injured.
- Damages: The plaintiff’s injuries resulted in damages.
Although the burden of proof is considerably less than what is required in a criminal case, it can still be tough to prove in many situations. Remember, the plaintiff has to persuade the court that it is more likely that their statements are true than not. If the court only feels that it is 49% likely the plaintiff is being honest, it won’t be enough to win their case.
Do You Need Help Proving Your Virginia Personal Injury Case?
Personal injury law is complicated, especially when it comes to proving each element of a case. If you were injured in a Virginia personal injury accident, you should contact an experienced Virginia personal injury attorney from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp. We can help you with the burden of proof and ensure you get the best results possible for your case. Call us at (833) 997-1774 to schedule your free case review.
For over twenty years, Mr. Sharp's law practice has focused on serious personal injury claims, including traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury claims. He also handles nursing home neglect cases and medical malpractice claims. Mr. Sharp has counseled numerous clients about the complexities concerning litigation of both pediatric and adult brain injury.