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What Standard of Proof do you have Meet in a Personal Injury Case?

In order to recover in a personal injury case in Massachusetts, you have to prove your case. What does that really mean? What is the standard of proof, and how much evidence is really necessary to prove a personal injury matter?

Bringing a claim for personal injury is a technical and legal process, and the burden is on the plainitff to prove his or her claim. The standard of proof is the level to which one must prove his or her case. In different types of cases, there are different standards of proof--depending on the case, there may be higher or lower level to which you must prove your case. The most difficult standard to meet is beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the proof necessary in criminal cases. This is for good reason: we do not want people going to jail or even incur a criminal record unless we've really proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is guilty of the crime. As a society, we would rather people go free than risk people be wrongly convicted.

In almost all civil actions, the burden of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence, which means more likely than not. If two things were equally likely--that is, they had an equal likelihood of occurring--then the burden has not been met. If two plausible scenarios were argued by each side of the case, and both of those scenarios were equally likely to have occurred, then the plaintiff will not win. Let's talk more about this.

How much evidence is really necessary? Well, that really depends: each case has its own set of facts and evidence. How much evidence is required depends upon how much evidence there is in total. You need as much evidence as is necessary to prove that your plausible scenario is more likely to have occurred than the defendant's proposed scenario.

Though inferences are allowed, the plaintiff cannot win a case on pure conjecture or guesswork. There cannot be a giant gap in the facts or the evidence supporting those facts with the gap being filled in by the guesswork of plaintiff's counsel. That's not to say that you can't have gaps in evidence in order to win your case. However, I wouldn't recommend going to trial simply having the attorney argue that something probably happened. You need evidence, and argument by the attorney is simply not evidence. If there is a gap in evidence, then that gap must essentially be filled to resolve the matter in the minds of the jury. A likely solution is to bring in an expert witness who can give expert opinions as to what occurred during the gap. The jury can then weigh the evidence and make an inference as to what actually occurred. This would also be known as "resolving issues of fact."

As a Massachusetts personal injury attorney, I am often confronted by prospective clients attempting to argue that they have a solid case when, in reality there are major gaps in evidence. As the injured party, or the party whose family member has been injured or lost her life, it's really difficult to think objectively about the case. Your objectivity is unavoidably jaded by your emotions. You likely feel that no one would believe an alternative to what you believe is the truth. The reality is that the people who will ultimately decide these issues are not your friends or family members. They are members of the greater community, and they will be well-situated to view the facts of your case in an objective manner. It is natural for you to be frustrated when there is a gap in the evidence. The prospect of losing a case when you clearly know you are in the right can be mind-numbing. All the more reason for you to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney knows how to handle cases of this nature.

Remember that evidence is usually more difficult to gather years down the road--or even months down the road--than it is to gather soon after the accident has occurred. It's simply easier to pull together documents and witnesses right after something's happening than it is later on. Witnesses forget exactly what happened, and that can mean losing your case. A good personal injury lawyer will know how to pull together the necessary evidence soon after the accident occurred. Should you wish to consult with our lawyers today, simply call our office and we will arrange for a confidential and free conversation between you and an experienced personal injury lawyer.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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