Mesa AZ | Personal Injury attorney Brian T. Allen answers a question about the standard of proof in a personal injury claim:
Q: I was badly hurt in a car accident. I am preparing to bring a personal injury claim against the driver who caused the accident. If my claim goes to trial, what will be the standard of proof? Will it be what I always see on TV – where I have to prove everything Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?
A: At this point, it is likely that everybody in the United States has heard or read the phrase “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” somewhere – on TV, in a book, in a movie. It does have a nice ring to it. However, proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the standard of proof in criminal cases only. This is because the defendant in a criminal case has rights, privileges, and sometimes his very life at stake. If he loses his case, he could face probation, the withdrawal of rights, imprisonment, or even the death penalty. With so much potentially on the line, due process demands that the prosecutor prove every aspect of his case against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury or the judge has reasonable doubt about whether the defendant committed a crime, the defendant cannot be convicted of that crime. For the jury or the judge to find the defendant guilty, Arizona law demands that they be “firmly convinced” of his guilt.
By contrast, loss of money is typically what a defendant faces in a personal injury case. While money is very important to all of us, taking away a sum of a defendant’s money is not the same as taking away his rights, freedom, or life. For this reason, personal injury cases do not require all of the same due process protections for a defendant that criminal cases require.
And so we arrive at the answer to this question: the standard of proof in a personal injury case is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It is a lesser standard, and you can find it in Arizona’s Standard Jury Instructions. The pertinent part of the instructions reads as follows:
On any claim, the party who has the burden of proof must persuade you, by the evidence, that the claim is more probably true than not true. This means that the evidence that favors that party outweighs the opposing evidence.
This is clearly a much lower standard to reach than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt, leaving the jury “firmly convinced” that the defendant committed the crime alleged. Typically, a plaintiff in a personal injury case must only show that his claim is “more probably true than not true;” the jury must only see that the plaintiff’s evidence outweighs his opponent’s.
This does not mean that personal injury cases are always “easier” than criminal cases. In some personal injury cases, reaching the standard of proof will likely be a relatively easy task. However, other cases are extremely complex and convincing the jury of even this lesser standard will be difficult.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you or someone you know wishes to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney after an injury, or has questions about Mesa AZ|Standard of Proof, call Mesa AZ Personal Injury Attorney Brian Allen at (480) 461-5335 or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation to discuss your rights and options.