What are Evidentiary Standards?
Posted in Lawsuit on July 19, 2017
The U.S. justice system is set up in a way that almost always requires parties to adhere to certain evidentiary standards and burdens of proof. A party with a burden of proof has the responsibility of proving his or her claim with evidence, testimony, and exhibits. The amount of proof required varies from case to case. In civil cases, the “evidentiary standards” may be either preponderance of evidence or clear and convincing evidence. In criminal cases, evidentiary standards are proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Understanding the likely evidentiary standards in your case can help you decide whether or not pursuing a claim with a Kansas City personal injury attorney is worthwhile.
Preponderance of Evidence
A preponderance of evidence is a standard of proof that a plaintiff (the injured party) must have to win a civil action. A plaintiff will only bear this burden of proof if the defendant (the alleged offender) files a counterclaim. There is no set equation to calculate the amount of a “preponderance of evidence.” It is simply enough evidence to make the plaintiff’s claim more likely true than not. It is up to a judge or jury to decide when the plaintiff has supplied enough evidence to serve as preponderance.
Clear and Convincing Evidence
If the court decides that a case needs to be more difficult to prove, it may increase the evidentiary standard to “clear and convincing” evidence. In these cases, the plaintiff must present evidence that is more likely to be true than not, and the judge or jury must have a firm belief in its truth. The evidence must carry a greater degree of believability than the common preponderance of evidence standard. The evidence must be “clear, convincing, and satisfactory” for the judge to rule on its truth.
Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
In criminal cases and very few civil cases, the plaintiff must prove that his or her claim is true “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is the highest evidentiary standard in the U.S. justice system. The prosecution must have evidence that proves that the only logical explanation is the defendant’s guilt in committing the alleged crime. Beyond a reasonable doubt describes a moral certainty in the defendant’s guilt more than a mathematical one.
How to Fulfill Evidentiary Standards
There are rules both parties must adhere to during case proceedings. These rules will determine which party is responsible for showing enough evidence to prove or disprove a claim. If you are the party responsible for showing evidence, as in the plaintiff in a car accident case in which the defendant is denying liability, you have a few sources of proof at your disposal:
- Eyewitness statements. If there were any witnesses to the incident, gather their information as soon as possible. Reporting your accident to the police can help collect eyewitness statements, as this is part of the official investigative process. Eyewitnesses can provide testimony regarding what happened.
- Expert testimony. In many cases, hiring an expert witness to testify can prove as substantial evidence. For example, one might hire an experienced neurosurgeon to testify on a case involving medical malpractice during brain surgery. Expert key witnesses can help attest to or disprove the defendant’s alleged negligence.
- Documentation of the incident, such as photographs and professional investigations, can also help prove a case. It’s important to take photos and gather as much information as possible soon after a personal injury, to have this evidence in the future. An attorney can help you document your incident.
Speaking with an attorney is the best way to get an idea of the potential evidentiary standards a judge may set in your particular case. These standards will depend on the type of accident and injuries involved in the case, as well as the circumstances surrounding the incident. Contact an attorney today for more information.