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What is the burden of proof in civil cases?

In personal injury cases, an injured person (the “plaintiff”) must prove that the other party’s actions caused their injuries and are therefore liable for the plaintiff’s damages.

what is burden of proof in civil cases

In Colorado, the plaintiff’s burden of proof, or the evidence they must provide to support a decision in their favor, is made through a “preponderance of evidence.” This means it’s “more likely than not” that your claims are true. Even if you share some of the blame for the incident (for example, you were speeding, but the defendant was texting and driving), you’ll be able to recover compensation as long as the defendant is 50% or more at fault.

If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligent or reckless actions, call the Denver personal injury attorneys at Zaner Harden Law to learn more about how we can help you win your personal injury claim in Colorado.

Contact us online or call (720) 613-9706 to schedule your free consultation. In the meantime, continue reading to learn more about the burden of proof in personal injury cases. 

Civil liability and the preponderance of evidence

The amount of evidence required to prove the claims made in a civil or criminal action varies based on the type of case. In Colorado civil cases, the plaintiff must prove their case by a “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning that, more likely than not, their claims are true.

To put it in a numbers perspective, a preponderance of the evidence burden of proof is said to be a 51% chance that the plaintiff’s story is true. This may seem like a low standard, but meeting this burden of proof is often easier said than done.

This is because juries must often rely on circumstantial evidence and varying and oppositional expert opinions to make decisions in personal injury cases.

Elements required to prove a personal injury claim

To reach a successful verdict, the plaintiff must prove four essential elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. If the plaintiff’s argument is missing even one of these elements, their claim is likely to fail.


First, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed them a duty of care. This means that the defendant was legally required to act in a manner to avoid injuring the plaintiff. For example, all drivers on the road have a duty to drive safely to avoid injuring other people, and a doctor has a duty to do no harm to a patient.


Next, the plaintiff must show that the defendant breached or violated this duty of care, meaning that the defendant didn’t act in the way that a “reasonable person” would have under similar circumstances. For example, if a driver runs a red light because they were texting, they breached their duty to abide by traffic and safety laws.


The plaintiff must also show that the defendant’s breach of duty was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. More specifically, they must show that it’s “reasonably foreseeable” that the defendant’s actions lead to their injuries.

Let’s say that our example driver is texting while driving, which causes them to run a red light and hit another car in the intersection. In this case, it’s reasonably foreseeable that their failure to pay attention to the road would lead to an accident. As a result, the driver who ran the red light would likely be held liable for any injuries that resulted from the accident.


Finally, the plaintiff must show that they suffered some type of damage or harm as a result of the defendant’s actions. This may include physical injuries, emotional distress, property damage, and/or other financial losses.

Get trusted help with your case

The right evidence can shed light on all of these elements and help you secure the compensation you need to move forward. But gathering this evidence and building a strong case can be challenging, especially if you’re still dealing with the aftermath of your injuries and are trying to recover.

If you were injured in an accident, it’s vital to speak with a reputable Denver personal injury attorney about your case. The experienced team at Zaner Harden Law will help you investigate the situation, gather evidence, and build a strong case for compensation. Then we’ll fight aggressively on your behalf to get you the full and fair compensation you deserve.

Call our team today at (720) 613-9706 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.

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We are located across the street from Union Station in downtown Denver and offer validated parking for all our clients. We also have offices in Boulder and Colorado Springs.