What is the “Burden of Proof” in a Personal Injury Case?

In any legal case, the “burden of proof” (also known as the “standard” or “onus” of proof) is the level of proof required for the person bringing the case forward to prove the liability of the defendant. Making allegations does not in itself prove a case. Cases must be proved through the presentation of evidence and the trier of fact (generally a Judge or Jury) must weigh that evidence to decide the case.

The Burden of Proof applies differently in different areas of law. For instance, a personal injury case has a different burden of proof than a criminal case.

In a criminal case, the burden to prove the accused person guilty always rests with the prosecution and the standard is “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” This standard of proof means the judge or jury must be very close to certain that the accused person is guilty. This is a higher burden of proof than in a civil case.

In a personal injury claim – a civil case –  the burden of proof rests with the plaintiff and the standard of proof is called the “balance of probabilities.” This means that the plaintiff must prove that it is more likely than not (or, 51% likely) that the defendant was negligent and that negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

As an injured plaintiff, proving negligence is a complex process with many steps. The Plaintiff must establish that the Defendant owed him or her a duty to act with reasonable care and through their actions breached that duty of care. The Plaintiff must also prove that the Defendant’s breach was the direct cause of a legally recognizable loss or damage (pain and suffering, loss of income, and so on).

Further, the defendant may attempt to raise certain legal defences to establish that the plaintiff’s conduct either caused or contributed to the incident in question, or to reduce the plaintiff’s claim for damages.

Regardless of the facts, if you have sustained an injury through the negligence of another person, whether in a car accident or a slip and fall, it is always a good idea to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We represent clients who have been injured in all types of accidents throughout Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Contact one of our experienced injury lawyers for your free consultation.


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