personal injury cases

In a personal injury lawsuit, the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff (the injured party) to show that the defendant (the alleged negligent party) is liable for their injuries and losses. This is known as the “burden of persuasion.” The plaintiff must prove three key elements by a “preponderance of evidence” to meet this burden:

Duty of Care

The first element the plaintiff must prove is that the defendant owed them a duty of care. This means the defendant had an obligation to act in a reasonable manner towards the plaintiff to avoid causing harm. For example, drivers have a duty to drive safely and businesses have a duty to maintain safe premises. If the plaintiff and defendant had no relationship or interaction, there may have been no duty owed.

Breach of Duty

Secondly, the plaintiff must prove the defendant breached their duty of care through negligent actions or failure to act reasonably. Simply proving an accident or injury occurred is not enough – the plaintiff must show how the defendant’s conduct fell below the reasonable standard of care. This often involves presenting evidence about safe practices that were not followed.


Finally, the burden is on the plaintiff to demonstrate a causal link between the defendant’s breach of duty and the injuries/losses suffered. In other words, the plaintiff must show their harm was a direct result of the defendant’s negligence. Expert testimony and medical reports may be used to prove causation.

Contributory Negligence

One defense the defendant may use against a personal injury claim is to argue the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to causing their injuries. In some states, if the plaintiff is found even slightly at fault this can completely bar them from compensation. Other states allow partial recovery based on proportional responsibility. The burden is on the defense to prove contributory negligence.

Exceptions to Burden of Proof

There are some exceptions where the burden shifts to the defendant. For example, in negligence claims involving children, the defendant typically has to disprove (not just deny) allegations. Additionally, for claims involving strict liability laws on product defects or hazardous activities, the burden may fall on the defendant to show they took reasonable care.

Meeting the Burden with Evidence

To meet their burden of proof, the plaintiff must gather strong supporting evidence through discovery. Common evidence in personal injury cases includes:

– Photographs of injuries, property damage, or unsafe conditions
– Medical records documenting treatment
– Police reports from the accident
– Expert testimony on matters like standard of care
– Witness statements
– Maintenance/inspection records
– Video surveillance footage
– Defendant’s own words, manuals, warning labels

The plaintiff must prove their case and meet the burden of proof by a “preponderance of evidence.” This means the evidence presented makes it more likely than not that the defendant is liable. If the plaintiff fails to meet the burden of proof on any of the key elements of a negligence claim, the case will not succeed. An experienced personal injury lawyer can advise on the evidence needed to maximize the chances of prevailing. With the right evidence and persuasive arguments, the plaintiff can successfully meet their burden.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here