Burden of Proof in Personal Injury Cases

Burden of proof is not unique to personal injury lawsuits. In fact, it is essential in all cases in which one party is claiming to establish the guilt of the other party. In criminal cases, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, while the defense must cast doubt on the prosecution’s case. In civil cases, such as personal injury claims, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to provide evidence that demonstrates that the defendant is more likely guilty than not. The defendant, in turn, must provide evidence to show that he or she is not guilty.


In a personal injury case that involves negligence, the plaintiff must present evidence that proves the defendant’s actions resulted in injury, damage or death. First, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant acted in a manner that violated or breached his or her duty of care toward the plaintiff and that this negligence caused the injury. The prosecution must also demonstrate that if the defendant pays damages, the plaintiff’s finances and life can be restored to what they were before the incident in question.


The burden of proof in a personal injury claim involving liability is considerably more simple than that of a case involving negligence. In a liability case, the plaintiff must prove that any sustained injuries were the direct result of the defendant’s actions and that because of those injuries, the court should grant damages in the plaintiff’s favor.

Preponderance of the Evidence

Regardless of whether a personal injury case involves negligence or liability, all personal injury cases require the same burden of proof by the plaintiff: the preponderance of the evidence. Under this burden, the plaintiff must prove to the court that the defendant was more than 51% responsible for the actions that lead to the injury. The plaintiff’s case must prove that the defendant is “more likely than not” responsible for the actions that resulted in the injury, loss or death.

The Defendant’s Burden

It is incumbent upon a defendant in any case to prove that there is a defense; simply stated, the defendant’s burden of proof is to show that his or her actions were reasonable, warranted and defensible. Often, the defense will work to show that the plaintiff shares some, if not all, of the responsibility for the events leading up to the injury or loss.

No two personal injury claims or cases are the same. If you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit, contact a personal injury attorney in your area today to maximize your chances of having a favorable outcome in your case.