Who Has the Burden of Proof in My Florida Personal Injury Case and What is That Burden?

There have been an overwhelming number of shows on television throughout the years involving the criminal justice system. Many people come away with a mistaken understanding as to what exactly a burden of proof is and what burden of proof the injured party in a Florida personal injury case is required to satisfy to prevail on his or her personal injury claim at a trial.  A burden of proof is a legal term that refers to which side is responsible for putting on evidence and the level of evidence that person must bring forward to succeed on his or her claim.  The burden of proof in a civil case, such as a personal injury lawsuit, is very different than in a criminal case like those featured in the many criminal justice dramas various networks and streaming services.

A criminal prosecutor, to put it as simply as possible, has a job that most prosecutors like to say is much more difficult than that of a civil attorney when it comes to the burden of proof because in a criminal case the burden of proof is so much higher than it is in a civil case.  The upshot of this is that if you have been the victim of someone else’s negligence in a motor vehicle accident, then you and your attorney’s path to success is not nearly as onerous as it might be for a crime victim and a prosecutor who is seeking justice for a crime victim.  While it is still your responsibility to prove your case against whoever injured you, there is a much more forgiving burden of proof to satisfy than the criminal prosecutor needs to put the crime victim’s assailant behind bars.  This is particularly true if you are represented by a Florida personal injury attorney who is a veteran in taking cases to trial, like the experienced attorneys at Schwed Adams & McGinley.

The Burden of Proof in Criminal Cases

In Law and Order or NCIS, both long-running television shows which deal with the criminal justice system, for example, the burden of proof is on a criminal prosecutor, and he or she must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person on trial for a particular offense did indeed commit the offense.  However, the burden of proof is very high, so high indeed that most criminal cases resolve before trial by way of plea bargains.

The Burden of Proof in Civil Cases

In civil cases, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence.  A civil lawsuit is one in which two individuals and/or corporate or other entities or organizations are asserting claims against one another.  In a personal injury lawsuit by one motorist who was injured in a motor vehicle accident against the negligent motorist who caused the wreck, the plaintiff has the burden of proof.  This means that the accident victim succeeds at trial by proving beyond a preponderance of the evidence (1) that the other driver was negligent and (2) that the other driver’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries.  That is, if you were the injured party and you file suit against the driver that injured you, your attorneys must prove to the jury that the other driver was negligent, that led to an accident in which you were injured, and that it was the other driver’s negligence that caused your injuries.  If the jury concludes that you have met this burden, then you prevail at trial on your personal injury claim.

What Does the Difference in the Burden of Proof Between Criminal and Civil Cases Actually Mean?

Whereas beyond a reasonable doubt is commonly described in law school classes as 99.99999%, a preponderance of the evidence is 50.000001%.  This means that, even though you do bear the burden of proof as the plaintiff in a personal injury case, you are not climbing the same mountain that a criminal prosecutor is in order to obtain justice and the compensation that you deserve in a trial against the person that injured you.  A prosecutor, in some ways, has a much more difficult job than a civil attorney simply due to the burden of proof applicable in each type of case.  A prosecutor must erase every last doubt in the minds of the jury as to (1) whether a crime was committed and (2) whether the person who is on trial for a crime is the one that committed the crime of which he or she is accused.

Whereas the defense in a criminal case may raise an issue that the prosecution then has to disprove in order to erase any doubts in the minds of the jury, the defense in a criminal case does not have to bring forth enough evidence to actually prove that defense or issue.  Instead, the criminal defense attorney can simply suggest or imply something to cause doubts in the mind of the jurors and then does not have to prove that what he or she suggested actually occurred.  This is very different than in civil cases, where if a defendant asserts a defense, then the defense is required to prove that defense by a preponderance of the evidence.  This means that, if the defense asserts that your negligence was the real cause of your injuries, the defense then has to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff’s actions led to the plaintiff’s injuries.  This is why an experienced personal injury attorney often will welcome the defense offering a defense against your claims, knowing the defense is unlikely to ever be able to prove that defense by a preponderance of the evidence.

Contact Schwed Adams & McGinley

At Schwed, Adams, & McGinley, P.A., our experienced personal injury attorneys have more than 150 years of combined practice representing victims of all sorts of motor vehicle accidents and other types of personal injury cases.  Our experienced attorneys at Schwed Adams & McGinley regularly take cases to trial on behalf of our clients, and we have trial experience that many other personal injury lawyers lack.  If the party that injured you, their attorney or insurer is being unreasonable, then our experienced attorneys are not afraid to take cases to trial on our clients’ behalf to help you pursue full and fair compensation for their injuries and losses caused by someone else’s negligence.  Therefore, if you were the victim of someone else’s negligence in Florida, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Schwed, Adams & McGinley, P.A today at 877-694-6079 or contact@schwedlawfirm.com for a free consultation.