A Guide to Evidence in Injury Claims
Posted in Lawsuit on October 18, 2017
In civil cases, the burden of proof lies with the claimant. Plaintiffs must prove a defendant’s liability using a preponderance of evidence. The evidence of a claim must convince a jury (or judge in some cases) that the defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury or illness. Admissible evidence forms the basis of any strong personal injury claim.
Probability and the Burden of Proof
Unlike the burden of proof in criminal cases, a plaintiff does not need to prove a defendant’s liability beyond reasonable doubt. The individual must only prove the accurate and reasonable probability of a defendant’s liability. To secure compensation, plaintiffs must demonstrate the likelihood of a defendant’s negligent or intentionally harmful behaviors to secure compensation. Missouri follows a pure comparative fault rule in most civil claims, which allows injured individuals to collect compensation for any percentage of the defendant’s negligence.
Proving Personal Injury Cases
In most personal injury cases, a plaintiff must prove four elements:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. For example, a driver is responsible for following the rules of the road and a property owner is responsible for maintaining a reasonably safe premises.
- The defendant failed to meet that duty. Through an act of negligence or malicious intent, the defendant failed to use a reasonable level of care around others.
- The defendant’s failure proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries. The defendant’s actions led to measurable and significant harm that would not have otherwise occurred.
- The plaintiff suffered measurable losses from the injury. A plaintiff must demonstrate economic and non-economic losses associated with his or her injuries to prove legal liability.
Types of Evidence Used in Personal Injury Claims
Before a claim reaches trial, an attorney may focus more on showing negligence than proving it. They will collect trustworthy documents and other pieces of evidence to effectively negotiate insurance claims. If negotiations fail to deliver a reasonable outcome, the plaintiff may choose to move forward with a trial. At trial, an attorney must do more than present evidence. He or she must prove the admissibility of evidence before relying on it to prove the four elements of the claim.
Personal injury attorneys look for several types of evidence to prove the four basic elements of injury claims. They commonly rely on:
- Physical evidence. Photographs, video recordings, dash camera footage, and property damage records can all help an attorney recreate the scene of an accident or incident and show the likelihood of a defendant’s liability.
- Witness testimony. Eyewitness testimony, police statements, and expert witness testimony can all help prove a case. Witnesses and police officers can provide invaluable details to corroborate a plaintiff’s claim, while expert witnesses may include physicians or accident recreation specialists who can provide insights into the validity of a case.
- Loss records. Proving damages plays a key role in securing a fair and full recovery. Medical records associated with the injury, work records, expense documentation, and personal experience records can all show the real and measurable losses a plaintiff has suffered and will suffer into the future.
Many successful personal injury attorneys treat all of their cases as if they will go to trial. They investigate and collect admissible evidence to prove an injured person’s claim in any setting to increase the likelihood of securing a fair settlement offer.
If you suffer an avoidable injury because of someone else’s negligence, partner with an attorney who is comfortable both inside and outside of the courtroom. While every case is different, compiling trial-ready evidence and pursuing a case to trial can often provide plaintiffs with higher damages awards.