When you are injured after a car accident in California, you would likely call the police and seek immediate medical care. However, as an injured victim, you also have the right to file a personal injury claim against the guilty party.
When you file a personal injury claim, you could recover compensation that can help you pay for damages, such as your medical bills, lost wages, car damage, and more. However, though you have a right to file a personal injury claim, there is no guarantee that you will win your case.
To recover damages, you must first be able to prove that the other party was negligent and thus responsible for the accident. In other words, you have the burden of proof.
In this article, we will help you understand what burden of proof is exactly and how it plays a role in your personal injury case. If you have further questions after reading, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our San Francisco traffic accident attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers.
What Is Burden of Proof?
A burden of proof in a personal injury case means that it is a case in which the victim (plaintiff) must prove what happened. In other words, the plaintiff carries the burden of proof.
If it were a criminal case, the prosecution would carry the burden of proof and must prove what happened beyond a reasonable doubt. But with personal injury cases, it is considered a civil case, and the plaintiff or victim is the one that has the burden of proving their case.
This means the victim of the car accident is the one responsible for providing evidence to show that another party acted negligently and is thus the one at fault and liable for the damages.
The Two Types of Burden of Proof in California
In California burden of proof personal injury cases, there are two kinds of burdens of proof:
- Preponderance of evidence: In most personal injury cases in California, the victim must prove their case by a preponderance of evidence. This is essentially a fancy legal term that means the plaintiff must prove that their claim is more likely true than not true. So if you are injured by another driver’s negligent actions, you must convince the jury using evidence that the accident was more likely than not the other driver’s fault.
- Clear and convincing evidence: Some civil personal injury cases will require proving a case using clear and convincing evidence. This means that you must prove that your claim is of high probability as opposed to just more likely than not. For example, if you wanted to recover punitive damages, which serve as a form of punishment for the guilty party, your burden of proof must be clear and convincing.
It should be noted, however, that while the victim (plaintiff) carries the burden of proof in personal injury cases, the burden of proof can shift to the defendant. Once the plaintiff has made their case, the defendant can essentially make a counterargument known as an affirmative defense. In this situation, it is then the defendant that carries the burden of proving why they think their actions should be legally excused.
The Four Key Factors in Burden of Proof Personal Injury Cases
When you carry the burden of proof, there are essentially four key elements that will play a role in your argument or claim. When attempting to prove what happened to ensure the guilty party is held liable and responsible for paying your damages, you must prove that:
- The defendant owed you, the plaintiff, a duty of care
- The defendant breached this duty of care by acting unreasonably
- The defendant’s unreasonable and negligent actions caused the accident
- You were harmed as a result of the accident caused by the defendant’s negligence
How Comparative Negligence in California Can Affect Your Burden of Proof Personal Injury Case
While you, as the injured victim, carry the burden of proof for your personal injury case, it’s important to understand that California is a comparative negligence state.
So, what is comparative negligence?
Comparative negligence in California means that more than one party can be at fault, and the percentage of fault can affect your settlement. So if you, as the injured victim, file a claim against another party and are found to have also contributed to the accident, the settlement you are awarded will be affected.
Let’s say you file a claim and prove that the defendant was responsible and you are awarded a $100,000 settlement. But then, the defendant claims that you also acted negligently, and the court finds that you are 20% responsible for the accident. Even though the defendant is primarily at fault, your settlement award will be reduced by 20%, meaning you would only receive $80,000.
This is why it is crucial that you work with an experienced attorney. When you carry the burden of proof in California, you want to make sure you can argue that the other party is entirely at fault, so your settlement does not get reduced due to comparative negligence.
We Handle Your Accident Claim So You Can Focus On Your Life
At Sally Morin, we truly care about the people of California. We handle many areas of the law, including burden of proof personal injury cases. We know what it takes to ensure our clients walk away with the settlement they deserve.
Call us at 877-380-8852 or contact us online today for a free case evaluation.