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Preponderance of the Evidence

Posted on Monday, October 27, 2014    

In the United States legal system, there are two standards of proof that must be met before the jury or judge decides who wins a case. Civil courts require the use of preponderance of evidence; whereas, criminal courts use a standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

Experienced Fort Smith personal injury lawyers know that injured victims can often misunderstand the applicability of these standards. The phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” refers to the level of evidence that must be present in order for a criminal court to hold a defendant guilty of a crime. The prosecution must prove that the accused committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, no other logical explanation can be derived from the facts except that the defendant committed the crime.

The burden of proof in a personal injury case is a preponderance of the evidence. This means the plaintiff must provide the greater weight of the evidence in a civil lawsuit for the trier, judge or jury, to decide in favor of one side or the other. Generally, this is interpreted as meaning that there is a greater than 50% chance, based on the evidence, that the defendant caused the damage. Many citizens fail to realize that preponderance of the evidence is a significantly lower standard compared to the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden is so much higher in criminal cases because such proceedings can result in the deprivation of a defendant’s liberty or even his or her death. These outcomes are far more severe than in civil trials, in which money damages are the result.

Preponderance is based on which side’s evidence is more convincing, taking into account its probable truth or accuracy, and not on the amount of evidence. The greater weight of evidence is not necessarily established by the greater number of witnesses testifying to any fact or state of facts. It is the evidence which, when weighed with that opposed to it, has more convincing force and is more probably true and accurate. Therefore, one clearly knowledgeable witness may be more believable than a dozen witnesses with questionable testimonies. The lower burden allows the scales of justice to tip slightly in favor of the plaintiff in civil cases.

To understand your rights and strategies during legal proceedings, you may need the assistance of a qualified Fort Smith personal injury attorney. A personal injury lawyer can help explain the standard of review to be used in your case. Leave a comment or feel free to call toll-free at 1-(800)-871-0036 or contact me by email at jmccutchen@mccutchenlawfirm.com.