The structure of the New York civil justice system places the burden of proof in a personal injury case on the victim, or plaintiff. This means it is the plaintiff’s burden – or his or her attorney’s – to prove to a judge or jury that the defendant was at fault for the accident or injuries. Achieving the burden of proof takes fulfilling New York’s current evidentiary standard: a preponderance of the evidence.
Most people have heard of the standard of evidence that requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the evidentiary standard in criminal cases. In a criminal case, a jury must view the defendant as innocent until proven guilty. It is then the prosecutor’s job to prove the defendant’s guilt for a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a high evidentiary standard with a great amount of weight, since the defendant’s freedom and life are on the line. A jury should not convict a defendant of a crime unless they are certain beyond a reasonable doubt of his or her guilt.
In a civil lawsuit, such as a personal injury claim, the New York courts abide by a different evidentiary standard. Instead of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, an accident victim’s attorney must establish that the defendant is more likely than not at fault for the damages in question, based on a preponderance of the evidence. This is a much lower burden of proof. Preponderance of the evidence means the facts the plaintiff has proven that the defendants are more likely than not at fault.
The burden of proof refers to which party – either the defendant or the plaintiff – has the responsibility of showing evidence and prevailing with the claim. In most cases, the party that brought the claim will bear the burden of proof in a lawsuit. In a civil case in New York, the plaintiff’s burden is typically to prove the defendant’s fault for the accident and injuries in question. Most accident victims hire attorneys to handle this burden of proof on their behalf. Proving a case requires four main elements in a claim based on negligence.
To properly evaluate and produce evidence that satisfies the burden of proof for a civil claim in New York, you should consult a personal injury attorney. Hiring a lawyer to represent you, allows you to concentrate on healing, while he/she navigates the litigation including the prosecution of the case and claim negotiations.