If you get injured due to someone else’s carelessness, recklessness or intent to harm, Texas law gives you the right to bring a personal injury suit against that party. Before the law will side in your favor and grant a financial award for your injuries and losses, however, you or your Dallas personal injury lawyer must meet the required burden of proof.
Understanding the Burden of Proof in a Personal Injury Case
In personal injury law, a burden of proof is the legal term for the amount of evidence necessary to prove the defendant committed the act in question and is therefore legally responsible for the damages claimed. The burden of proof in civil law is different than in criminal law. In criminal law, the burden of proof is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil law, it is proof based on a preponderance of the evidence.
Preponderance of the evidence means “more likely than not.” The injured party, or plaintiff, in a personal injury claim has the burden to convince a jury that his or her argument is more likely than not to be true. In other words, the plaintiff’s version of events must be deemed at least 51% true for him or her to obtain financial compensation from a defendant. Although this is a lesser burden of proof than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, it can still be a difficult bar for a plaintiff to meet without assistance from an attorney.
Elements of Proof Necessary for a Negligence Claim
Fulfilling the required burden of proof in a personal injury case in Texas typically requires clear and convincing evidence of the defendant’s negligence. Negligence is a legal theory that describes a degree of substandard care a reasonable and prudent party would not use in the same circumstances.
A defendant may be found liable for a plaintiff’s injuries on the grounds of negligence if the plaintiff can prove four elements as most likely to be true:
- The defendant owed him or her a specific duty of care. A duty of care is a legal obligation to act in a reasonable manner.
- The defendant breached his or her duty of care. The defendant committed a careless or reckless act.
- The defendant’s action or omission caused the plaintiff’s injury. There is a causal link between the defendant’s mistake and the injury in question.
- The plaintiff suffered compensable losses related to the defendant’s negligence. Losses include lost wages, medical expenses and emotional distress.
Although negligence is the most common basis for personal injury cases in Dallas, it is also possible to hold a defendant liable for an accident based on other legal theories, such as strict liability or breach of warranty. A personal injury attorney can help you understand the grounds for your particular case. Then, your attorney can collect evidence on your behalf to use in support of your claim.
Evidence Used in a Personal Injury Case
One of the most important aspects of the burden of proof in a personal injury claim is evidence. Holding someone accountable for your losses in Texas requires clear and convincing evidence of that person’s fault. Your attorney will need to present enough evidence to convince a jury that the defendant is at least 51% responsible for causing your accident and the injuries you are claiming. Evidence can come in many forms, including:
- Eyewitness accounts
- Police reports
- Medical records
- Hospital bills
- Pay stubs
- Expert testimony
It is extremely important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after an accident that injures you in Dallas. A lawyer can immediately go to work on preserving key evidence for your case, such as cell phone records or video surveillance footage. Then, your lawyer can hire experts such as investigators and crash reconstruction specialists to help you establish the defendant is at fault. A lawyer can help you with the burden of proof from the very beginning of a personal injury case.