What is the Burden of Proof in a Civil Case?

One way to help predict the likelihood of success in your case is by understanding the burden of proof. This is the legal requirement to determine who is responsible for producing evidence that proves or discredits a claim. The evidence is usually expressed through documents, objects, and witness testimony.

Who Has the Burden of Proof?

The law requires the party that has the burden of proof to present sufficient evidence that will support the claims. In most civil cases, the party that is putting forth the claim (the plaintiff) has the burden of proof. 

The Difference Between A Civil Case and a Criminal Case

The phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” is familiar to most people. In a criminal case, this refers to the burden that the prosecution must satisfy, as the burden of proof lies with them. Here, the defendant doesn’t have to prove innocence; the defendant is viewed as being innocent until the prosecution establishes their guilt. However, there are scenarios where the defendant most likely wants to show that they are innocent, such as in cases of an insanity defense or self-defense. The standard is that the prosecution must show “beyond a reasonable doubt”that the defendant committed the crime and that there is no other possibility than what is presented to the court. 

In a civil lawsuit, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. It’s up to them to prove that their contentions are true and that the other party caused them damages. For the civil case, the plaintiff’s burden is usually a “preponderance of evidence.” This means that it is more likely than not that the defendant caused harm to the plaintiff. In some civil cases, however, the burden is a different standard and it requires “clear and convincing evidence” or evidence that has a high probability of truth.

Standards of Proof

The standard of proof lays out what a party must do to meet their burden: The higher the stakes, the more difficult it is to satisfy. 

  • Preponderance of Evidence: This is the standard in most civil cases that requires plaintiffs to demonstrate to the jury or the judge that the defendant is more than 50% responsible for their damages, including property damage or loss of income.
  • Clear and Convincing Evidence: Sometimes plaintiffs seek more than money, namely things like civil liberties, and this demands a higher level. Here, you must prove that there is a high probability that the allegation happened.
  • Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: This is the highest standard and is used in criminal cases. It requires that no other reasonable explanation exists beyond the evidence presented.

Proving Negligence in a Civil Case

In claims involving negligence, (such as a personal injury lawsuit) you must establish first, that the defendant owed you a duty of care and that they breached that duty of care. Next, you need to show that the defendant acted in such a way that others in their same position would not have. Then, present proof that you were harmed by their behavior. 

Understand More about the Burden of Proof

Getting a handle on the burden of proof will give you an idea about your legal position and the possible outcome of your case. However, discussing this in detail with an experienced attorney will give you a better picture of what to expect. Contact one of our skilled MOWK Law attorneys to find out more information. Get started today.