The success of a personal injury claim weighs heavily on the evidence.
What accident victims may not realize, however, is it is their duty to provide substantial evidence to the insurance claims adjuster or the court. The evidence is what substantiates the claim and proves the settlement amount requested.
Without adequate evidence, a case will have no traction in court.
Meeting the burden is not impossible, but it does take work and due diligence. A plaintiff must keep accurate records, submit to medical tests, and be willing to make statements in and outside of court.
How The Law Defines The Burden Of Proof
According to Cornell University Law School, the “burden of proof” is defined as the threshold that determines if one party has proven their fact or not. The plaintiff must provide a preponderance of evidence showing that the defendant caused their injuries in a civil claim.
Accidents And Negligence Are Not The Same
For a plaintiff to succeed, they must establish that the defendant acted negligently when the injury occurred. If there were an accident, but no negligence, the defendant would not be considered liable by the court.
This is an area of personal injury law that is commonly misunderstood. As the American Bar Association states, a person is only liable for their actions if they were negligent in causing the injury. This negligence does not equate to intentional acts, but instead, the injury stems from the person’s reckless behavior.
The law recognizes negligence when the defendant’s behavior falls below the acceptable standard of care. For example, the defendant caused a motor vehicle accident, injuring the plaintiff, because he was texting on his phone.
In this instance, the defendant was acting negligently; therefore, they are responsible.
Showing Negligence Versus Proving Negligence
Demonstrating that someone caused an accident is much different from actually proving it. Once a lawsuit has been filed, a plaintiff cannot just show their evidence. Instead, they will have to show that their documents and evidence is legitimate and accurate. Mesa lawyers can help by collecting evidence and arguing based on precedence (previous cases ruled on by the court).
Proof By A Preponderance Of Evidence, Not Beyond A Reasonable Doubt
It is easy to confuse “proof by a preponderance of evidence” with “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but the two are entirely different.
In civil matters, a preponderance of evidence is required, but the jury does not need to be 99 percent sure of the defendant’s responsibility. Instead, it means that the jury or judge must feel that the defendant is 50 percent or more liable for the accident, according to Cornell University Law School.
What Evidence Must A Plaintiff Present?
To meet the proof by a preponderance of evidence standard, a plaintiff must prove four key elements:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
- The defendant breached the duty;
- The plaintiff suffered injury because of the breach (causation);
- And, the injury led to damages (financial or emotional trauma).
There is more than just one piece of evidence that can meet this burden. Plaintiffs, with the help of Mesa lawyers, can prove their case by providing:
1. Photographs From The Accident
If the claimant was able to do so, providing pictures of the crash scene may help the jury or judge recreate the scene in their own minds. It also can show the vehicle’s condition, road conditions, and everything that was occurring at the time of the accident.
2. Medical Records And Medical Bills
To prove that there are damages, the plaintiff must submit their medical records to the court. This will include laboratory and diagnostic test results, doctors’ notes, emergency room and hospitalization records, etc. To collect on those financial burdens, the plaintiff must also submit proof of the cost via medical bills, insurance statements, or cash receipts.
3. Eyewitness Testimony
Most accidents will have some form of witness (whether for the plaintiff or the defendant). When someone is involved in an accident, it is highly recommended that they seek any witnesses and retrieve their contact information. Their attorney can later contact the witness for an official statement.
4. Proof Of Missed Work And Income
When claiming lost wages, a plaintiff must prove how much work they have missed, what they would have earned, and how much more work they will lose. This can be done by providing a letter from their employer, past paycheck stubs, W-2s, and a doctor’s statement.
5. Police Reports
Police reports may be used as evidence at trial. There is a common misconception that police reports are hearsay, but this rule only applies when an injury claim is governed by Federal Rules of Evidence, according to FindLaw.com For small claims court disputes and civil matters, the police report may still be used. This would apply in particular if the report were issued in the regular course of police business (i.e. reporting a car accident to the police and receiving a report).
Mesa Lawyers Can Assist With The Burden Of Proof
Meeting the burden of proof requires extensive knowledge about civil procedure and Arizona statutes. The injury team at Tobler Law can assist with meeting this burden and helping victims receive compensation for their injuries.
Schedule a consultation today by contacting the Mesa personal injury lawyers at Tobler Law at 480-898-9700 or by filling out an online contact form.