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Understanding the Burden of Proof in a Personal Injury Case 

Understanding the Burden of Proof in a Personal Injury Case

To win a personal injury case in Denver, Colorado, the plaintiff must meet their burden of proof. Many people learn about the burden of proof in a legal case from TV crime dramas, where a prosecutor must show proof beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Civil lawsuits have different standards, and the burden of proof in a personal injury case is less than what it is in a criminal trial. An experienced Denver personal injury lawyer can evaluate your claim and build your case to meet your burden of proof. 

Knowing the burden of proof in your case is important because that determines the type of evidence you will need. In a personal injury case, you will need to show it is more likely than not that the other person was responsible for your injuries. This is also known as a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. 

Here, we will explain more about what that means and how it may apply to your case.

Defining Burden of Proof 

Defining Burden of Proof

The burden of proof is a legal standard required to prove your case in a court trial. In any legal case, the burden of proof measures how much evidence one side needs to show to prove the other party’s guilt or responsibility. 

In criminal cases, prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest level of all burden of proof standards. Under this standard, the prosecutor must prove the only logical conclusion based on all evidence involved, is that the defendant is guilty of the crime they are charged with. Having a high burden makes sense since it involves a person’s liberty and freedom. 

In a civil case, which includes personal injury lawsuits, the burden of proof is lower. This is because the defendant does not face jail time if they are found guilty. This lower burden of proof is known as “preponderance of the evidence.” Under this standard, a person bringing a claim only needs to show that the existence of a fact is more likely than its nonexistence. For example, if your vehicle is rear-ended by another driver, you only need to prove that it is more likely that the driver behind you hit your car than some other driver or object. 

Another way to think about the preponderance of the evidence is by looking at percentages. In a personal injury case, you will need to prove that the other person was more than 50% responsible for the accident. 

Colorado follows a modified comparative negligence standard, which looks at the percentage of a person’s fault for an accident. If the other person was more than 50% responsible for causing the accident, they can be held legally liable. 

However, the plaintiff’s percentage of fault can be used to reduce the overall award for money damages. If a claimant was 40% responsible, for example, they can collect but might only receive 60% of what they’d otherwise be entitled to. 

What Is Negligence and What Does It Mean for My Case?

To prove liability in most personal injury cases, the plaintiff must prove negligence, which is made up of four elements: 

  1. Duty of care. This means that a reasonable person would have acted differently than the defendant did under the circumstances to avoid a foreseeable injury. 
  2. Breach of duty. When a person fails to follow their duty of care in a situation, they can be said to have breached their duty. A driver reaching an intersection has a duty to stop at a red light, for example. If they don’t, they breach their duty. 
  3. Causation. There must be a causal connection between the defendant’s actions (or failure to act) and the plaintiff’s injuries. Various types of evidence can be used to show causation and meet the burden of proof for this element. 
  4. Damages. The plaintiff must have been damaged in some way by the defendant’s actions. Damages can be shown through medical bills, lost wages, and other ways of showing the costs you incurred.  

Each of these elements must be satisfied on the aforementioned “by a preponderance of the evidence” standard.

Does the Defendant Have a Burden of Proof? 

Not by default. The plaintiff (injured victim) has the initial burden of proof to establish their case. The defendant may then present evidence in response. However, if the defendant asserts an affirmative defense, such as contributory fault, they have the burden of proof to establish that defense.

Applying the Burden of Proof in Your Personal Injury Case 

Even though you don’t have the high burden of proof that a criminal prosecutor has, you still want to approach your case with as much strong evidence as possible. An experienced personal injury lawyer will evaluate your claim and build evidence to surpass your burden of proof. 

Evidence that can support your burden of proof might include:

  • Photographs
  • Video footage
  • Eyewitness testimony 
  • Expert testimony
  • Accident reconstruction evidence
  • Police testimony 
  • Medical reports 

The type of case you have can determine what evidence is best. A lawyer can help not only because of their experience with these issues but also because they have the resources to cover the sometimes costly process of presenting evidence. Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, so these costs are covered up-front. 

Contact a Denver Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Case Assessment

If you were hurt in an accident, you might be overwhelmed by medical bills and other expenses involved. If another person was responsible for your injuries, you can file a claim to recover their compensation. Our experienced Denver personal injury lawyers can help you meet your burden of proof. Contact our office to learn more and schedule a free consultation.

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Denver Personal Injury Lawyer

Our Denver personal injury attorneys at Zaner Harden Law evaluate your case for all types of damages. We pursue each source of compensation to maximize the amount you recover for your personal injury case. Call (720) 613-9706 or contact us online for a free case evaluation with one of our attorneys.

Where We Are

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.