The Burden of Proof

On Behalf of | Nov 11, 2015 | Car Wrecks

In one of the more notorious trials of the 1990s, a popular actor and former football star was tried for a double murder that occurred not far from his home in California. While a criminal jury found the man not guilty of murder, a civil jury ordered him to pay $25 million following a subsequent wrongful death lawsuit. The man’s moral guilt or innocence is not really relevant to the discussion at hand: the point is that the burden of proof is much lower in a civil proceeding like a car crash case than in a criminal or family law case.

Civil Case

In nearly all negligence cases, the plaintiff must prove liability by a preponderance of the evidence, which means “more likely than not.” Some people use the analogy of the scales of justice that tip in one direction or the other. But a more accurate image is to picture two equally-full glasses of water sitting side by side. If a person adds one drop to the glass on the right, it contains more water than the glass on the left.

In real terms, assume that Witness A and Witness B offer conflicting evidence as to which driver had the right-of-way in a collision. If Witness B’s eyes dart around during testimony, a reasonable juror could probably conclude that the witness was lying and discount his or her testimony.

Criminal Case

These matters are markedly different, because the prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Texas courts do not define the term, but California law states that the jurors must have an “abiding conviction of the truth of the charge” even after they have heard from both sides.

Child Custody Case

In many of these proceedings, especially those that involve the state’s attempt to wrest custody from a parent, the prosecutors must prove their cases by clear and convincing evidence. The term is defined in the Family Code as “the measure or degree of proof that will produce in the mind of the trier of fact a firm belief or conviction as to the truth of the allegations sought to be established.”

Clear and convincing evidence is also the standard of proof in negligence cases that involve claims for punitive damages.

The lower standard of proof in a negligence case means it is more likely that a lawyer can obtain fair compensation for your injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced New Braunfels personal injury attorney, contact our office. Our professionals get to work on your case right away.