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In any personal injury case, it is the job of the injured person to convince a judge or jury that the person they are suing is responsible for causing their injuries. As a result, it is said that the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff. This article will discuss what the burden of proof is and its associated elements.

It is important to note that all legal cases have an evidence linked benchmark that must be met. It is only after such a benchmark has been met that a defendant can be found liable or guilty. The term [Burden of Proof | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)] burden of proof “describes the standard that a party seeking to prove a fact in court must satisfy to have that fact legally established”. The burden of proof is how convinced the judge or jury needs to be before actually believing something. It is important to note that there are different standards to be satisfied in different circumstances.

In a criminal case, it is necessary to convince the judge or jury that an individual committed a crime “beyond a reasonable doubt”.  In personal injury cases, the standard to be satisfied is referred to as “a preponderance of the evidence”. This basically means that the plaintiff needs to convince the judge or jury that it is more likely true than not that the facts are what the plaintiff says they are. The phrase ‘more likely than not’, basically means that the jury or judge thinks that the chance that the plaintiff’s version of facts is true must be at least 51%, while the chance of these facts being false are no more than 49%. Therefore, when the odds are 50/50, the plaintiff fails to reach the standard of ‘a preponderance of the evidence’.

With regards to the defendant, when it comes to the burden of proof, he or she is not normally required to prove that their version of events is true. Rather, when the plaintiff is trying to prove the elements of the case, all the defendant needs to do is try to convince the jury that the plaintiff’s version is inaccurate or false by 50% or more.  If the jury is not sure,  they  will decide   for the defendant.

The defendant has the right to present evidence of facts that contradict the plaintiff’s version of events. However, convincing the jury that their version of factors is most accurate is not the point. By presenting alternative facts, this casts enough doubt on the plaintiff’s version so much so that the jury may not believe that the plaintiff’s version is ‘more likely than not’ true.

It must be noted that there exists an exception to this rule in the case when a defendant tries to prove an “affirmative defense”. Where an affirmative defense is to be proven the defendant must prove the elements of such a defense to be ‘more likely than not’ true. This is regardless of the plaintiff’s success in proving the elements of the claim.

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