A burden of proof is an important concept to understand if you are filing a personal injury lawsuit. Read over the information below and speak to a North Carolina personal injury lawyer for more information.
What Is the Burden of Proof?
The burden of proof is the legal threshold that you must meet in order to recover for your claim. In a personal injury lawsuit, the burden of proof is proof by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that it must be more likely than not that things happened the way you said, that it is 51 percent or higher likelihood that things happened the way you say. This standard is much lower than that involved in criminal cases, proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It is also below another common burden of proof: by clear and convincing evidence.
What Do You Have to Prove?
What you have to prove depends on the type of case that you are pursuing:
Strict liability is a term that applies to the standard in certain types of cases in which if the legal definition is met, the other party is held legally responsible. For example, North Carolina has a strict liability rule regarding dog bite claims. If a dangerous dog (one that is over six months old and running at large at night, previously killed or injured a person or had been previously declared by officials as a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog) bites or attacks a person, its owner is held strictly liable for the damages that result. As long as the definition is met, the dog owner is held responsible. There is no need to show that the owner of the dog was negligent or careless in any way.
Most personal injury claims are based on the legal standard of negligence. This standard applies to other types of dog bite claims where the strict liability rule does not apply, claims regarding defective products, car accident cases and other types of personal injury claims. To successfully recover, you must establish the following elements by proof by a preponderance of the evidence:
- Duty – You must show that the defendant had some legal duty. If he or she was a motorist who harmed you, this requires showing that he or she had a legal duty to drive in a safe manner. If the accident was a slip or fall, this would require showing he or she had the duty to keep the premises safe from dangers.
- Breach of duty – You must then show how the defendant was careless and breached this legal duty, such as by breaking a driving rule or failing to keep the premises clean. This element is usually proven by comparing the conduct of the defendant with what a reasonable person would have done under the same or similar circumstances.
- Causation – You must also show that there is a connection between the defendant’s breach of duty and the injuries that you sustained.
- Damages – You must have suffered some type of harm as a result of the defendant’s breach, such as property damage, medical expenses or pain and suffering.
Importance of an Attorney
Establishing the burden of proof is your responsibility as a plaintiff in a personal injury case. If you are unable to meet the burden of proof, you will be unable to recover compensation from the at-fault party. It is important to have the help of an experienced Wilmington NC personal injury attorney who can help you meet this burden. He or she can discuss ways that you may be able to establish the burden of proof in your Wilmington NC personal injury claim.