The burden of proof is an important concept in both civil and criminal cases. As explained below, the term burden of proof broadly refers to the requirement that one party prove one or more things to succeed in a civil lawsuit or criminal case.
As a plaintiff in a personal injury case, you have the burden of proof to demonstrate that the defendant in your case is responsible for your injury.
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What is the Burden of Proof?
The burden of proof broadly refers to the evidence that a plaintiff must present to the jury or court in a lawsuit to prove their case. The burden of proof consists of two parts: the burden of persuasion and the burden of production.
The burden of production is the burden to present sufficient evidence for the court to consider the case in the first place. After a plaintiff meets the burden of production, they then must persuade the jury or court that the facts alleged in the lawsuit are true; this is called the burden of persuasion.
Burden of Proof vs. Standard of Proof
While the burden of proof refers to which party is required to prove its case to the trier of fact (i.e., the judge or jury), the standard of proof refers to the extent to which the party with the burden of proof must prove its case.
The applicable standard of proof in a civil lawsuit depends on the type of case. As explained below, most civil cases apply either the preponderance of the evidence standard or the clear and convincing evidence standard. This differs from criminal cases, which apply the beyond a reasonable doubt standard.
Generally, the higher the stakes involved, the higher the standard of proof. Therefore, the reason criminal cases apply beyond a reasonable doubt standard is that these cases have the highest stakes, i.e., the loss of one’s liberty.
The Preponderance of the Evidence Standard
As noted above, one burden of proof that is applied in civil cases is the preponderance of the evidence standard. This standard applies in most civil cases and family court decisions that involve monetary damages. This burden of proof is also applied in criminal cases when criminal defendants assert affirmative defenses or present mitigating evidence.
The court will find that the preponderance of the evidence standard has been met when the matter alleged is more likely to be true than untrue. This standard is also applied when an employee loses their position due to allegations of misconduct and seeks unemployment benefits.
In the criminal context, the preponderance of the evidence standard is higher than probable cause but lower than beyond a reasonable doubt. As noted above, the reason that criminal cases apply the beyond a reasonable doubt standard is that such cases involve the possible loss of liberty, thereby requiring prosecutors to meet a high standard of proof.
Clear and Convincing Evidence Standard
The clear and convincing evidence standard involves a higher burden of proof than the preponderance of the evidence standard. This standard is applied in some civil, criminal, and administrative matters. Common types of cases in which this standard is used are paternity cases, guardianships, child custody matters, the probate of wills, juvenile delinquency, and petitions to remove people from life support.
In a case that applies the clear and convincing evidence standard, the evidence that a party presents must be substantially more likely to be true than untrue. This is a higher burden than is required in most types of civil cases, the majority of which apply the preponderance of the evidence standard discussed above.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney for Help
If you’ve been injured in an accident in Pennsylvania, you need an experienced personal injury attorney on your side. At Marzzacco Niven & Associates, we are here to fight for your rights. When you come to us for assistance, we will aggressively pursue financial compensation on your behalf so you can focus on recovering from your injury.
Please contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our talented Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers.