More Likely Than Not: The Standard in Civil Cases
When personal injury and wrongful death cases make it to a jury, one thing is certain: the plaintiffs and defendants will present a lot of evidence. And it’s natural that each side will only put on evidence that helps their side. The jury’s job is not to determine who presents the most evidence, but to decide which evidence is more credible.
Conceivably, a jury might believe that the defendant hurt the plaintiff, the accident was the defendant’s fault, and all the alleged damages the plaintiff has claimed are accurate. Alternatively, the jury may believe the plaintiff’s case is a joke. But at the end of the day, the jury may not completely believe either parties’ arguments or evidence. That’s actually quite common.
After all, there are two sides to every story and if a case makes it all the way to trial, then both sides are reasonably confident in their version of the events. At this more likely of occurrences, the jury then has to decide who’s more likely right.
In this article, we’ll talk about what benchmark the jury must use to decide if the plaintiff wins or loses at trial.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- What is “preponderance of the evidence” in a personal injury case?
- How does the plaintiff’s burden of proof relate to preponderance of the evidence?
The plaintiff must put on more credible evidence than the defendant
The burden is on the plaintiff to prove his case. He can’t simply allege the defendant did something bad and force the defendant to prove he’s not at fault. Think about it this way: he filed the lawsuit and asked the court to assemble a jury, he should have to justify why he was right to do so. This may seem unfair to make an injured person go through even more difficulty to win his case, but the law is the law.
But just how high is the plaintiff’s burden? The jury must decide if the plaintiff’s allegations are true “more likely than not.” Essentially, the jurors must be convinced that by 51 to 49 than the plaintiff is correct. This is obviously not very high.
Keep something in mind: jurors are supposed to listen to all the evidence before they come to any determination. That means that they have to try to suspend their judgment until both sides fully present their case. Below are some scenarios of how juries are to decide civil cases:
- In a car wreck case, the plaintiff claims on the stand that the defendant ran a red light and slammed into her. The defendant’s lawyer cross-examines her and gets her to admit that she has memory problems. The defendant takes the stand and claims that the light was green and he had the right of way. The plaintiff’s attorney cross-examines him and it’s revealed that the defendant has been convicted of tax fraud. The jury must decide whom they believe. If they can’t believe either of them (thereby making the evidence 50-50), the plaintiff’s claim fails because she hasn’t met her burden.
- A woman was killed when her car collided with an 18-wheeler in a truck accident. The 18-wheeler driver survives but adamantly claims that the accident was the other driver’s fault. Even though the other driver is now dead and cannot give her version of events, her family’s attorney could still offer various forms of evidence (like a reconstruction expert’s testimony) to convince the jury that, more likely than not, it’s the truck driver’s fault.
The bottom line is that the plaintiff must reach the 51-49 threshold in the jury’s mind, or he or she fails.Not a Moment to Waste The importance of a prompt investigation...Read More >
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