Standard of Proof Goes Beyond “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt”
FEBRUARY 8, 2021
If a personal injury case goes to trial, it is the plaintiff (injured party) and their attorney’s burden to provide evidence showing an injury was caused by the defendant’s negligence. In other words, this evidence is used to convince a jury (or a judge if it is a bench trial) that the defendant is responsible for the harms they have caused to the plaintiff. But, just how convinced the jury or judge needs to be is determined by the “burden of proof.”
You have heard the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Many people think that is the standard of proof for all trials. This high standard of proof, meaning little to no doubt, is reserved for criminal cases since that type of case carries a more severe punishment.
The standard of proof for personal injury cases in Missouri
Personal injury cases fall within civil law where the standard of proof is by “a preponderance of the evidence,” or in other words, more likely than not. So, instead of believing a fact or conclusion “beyond a reasonable doubt,” you believe that it is “more likely than not.” This means that a juror can have doubts about facts in the case and still find the defendant is responsible for the harms they caused.
An easier way to think about it is asking yourself, which way do you lean on an issue in the case? If you lean just a little more towards the plaintiff or at least 51% towards the plaintiff, then you must find for the plaintiff—that is the law!
Depending on your specific case, your attorney may present evidence such as:
Eye witness testimony
Photographs from the scene of the accident or injuries
Medical reports, records, and bills
Testimony from friends and family on how the injuries have affected their loved one
Pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life
Ensuring the right standard of proof is utilized
Jury selection is an important aspect of a civil case. For a juror to decide the verdict of a case, they need to apply the correct standard of proof and truly understand what it means. Many people know “beyond a reasonable doubt” because that’s what we often hear about on TV. And, as we learned above, this does not apply to a civil case.
At Dawson Law Firm, we believe not only jurors but also laypeople need to be educated about the threshold they are holding parties to during the trial. The importance of picking an unbiased jury is crucial, and Dawson Law Firm is here to ensure that is done in any injury case we take to trial.
Dawson Law Firm, LLC. Licensed in Missouri
Dawson Law Firm, LLC. 222 S. Central Ave. Ste.1100. St. Louis, MO 63105
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