Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C. | December 19, 2020 | Personal Injury
When another person or party causes you harm or injury, you have the right to seek compensation for your damages. However, under New York’s personal injury laws, you have the burden of proving the legal elements required for a personal injury claim.
The rules and laws regarding evidentiary standards and burdens of proof can be confusing. The key thing to remember is that you must have evidence that proves your case by a preponderance of the evidence, or the other party wins.
What Does the Law Mean When it Says Preponderance of the Evidence?
Whenever facts are disputed in a personal injury case, the person alleging fault and damages has the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence is different from the evidence that proves your claims beyond a reasonable doubt.
The burden of proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt is used in criminal cases. A jury must find that the evidence presented in the case leaves no reasonable doubt that the crime could have been committed by anyone other than the defendant. It is a high standard of proof because the penalties for a criminal conviction could result in imprisonment.
The burden of proof in a civil case is not as high. You do not need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the other party caused your injury.
You must present evidence that proves to a jury that it is more likely than not that the defendant caused your injury. That is what is meant by the preponderance of the evidence. You are not proving without a doubt that the defendant caused your injury, but you are proving that it is over 50 percent likely that is what happened.
This evidentiary standard applies in all types of personal injury claims, including automobile accidents, premises liability claims, wrongful death cases, construction accidents, defective product claims, and many more cases involving personal injury.
What are You Trying to Prove in a Personal Injury Claim?
Most personal injury cases involve negligence claims. Negligence is a failure to act with the same care as a reasonable person in a specific situation. Claims of negligence may also involve failures or omissions to act.
For example, a doctor fails to perform the required diagnostic tests that would have revealed a cancer diagnosis. The failure to act resulted in a delay in treatment that caused further injury to the patient.
The evidence in a personal injury case must prove by a preponderance of the evidence each of the legal elements of a negligence claim. In general, there are four elements that you must prove to win a negligence claim:
Duty of Care
The party causing the injury must have owed a duty of care to the injured party at the time of the injury.
For instance, property owners owe a duty of care to visitors or guests on their property to provide safe premises. Drivers have a duty of care to others on the road to operate their vehicles in a safe manner. Doctors owe a duty of care to their patients.
The duty of care requires that the party act in a manner consistent with acceptable standards or laws. Therefore, the duty of care can vary based on the specific type of personal injury claim.
Breach of Duty
The injured party must prove that a breach of duty occurred.
For example, a property owner failed to perform reasonable and necessary repairs even though the owner knew or should have known the condition was hazardous or dangerous for visitors and guests. Another example of a breach of duty would be a motorist speeding or driving under the influence. Both actions increase the risk of a traffic accident.
The third element to prove is that the breach of duty caused your injury. There must be a link between the breach of duty and the accident or event that caused your injury. Without a causal link, you cannot prove that the other person is responsible for your injuries and damages.
The final legal element is to prove that you sustained damages. Damages in a personal injury claim include physical injuries, financial losses, emotional trauma, and other losses. You have the burden of proving that the accident caused these losses and damages.
Gathering Evidence to Meet Your Burden of Proof
Proving that another person caused your injury might require substantial proof. Gathering the evidence to meet your burden of proof can be costly and time-consuming. Hiring a personal injury lawyer might help.
A law firm has the resources, time, and experience required to investigate accident and injury claims. While you focus on recovering from your injuries, your lawyers focus on gathering the required evidence to prove the at-fault party is financially liable for your damages.