Burdens Of Proof: Preponderance Of Evidence

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By Matthew Maddox / March 3, 2017

Burden of proof is what your lawyer has to do in order to prove your case.

It’s the legal system’s challenge:  if what you say is true, then prove it, and here’s what you have to do in order to prove it.

In a separate post, I wrote about Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, which is the burden of proof in criminal cases. This post is about one of our most commonly applied civil burdens of proof.

For many Connecticut civil cases, including personal injury cases, the burden of proof is by what is called a

“fair preponderance of the evidence”

If you imagine an old-fashioned scale, the kind with plates balancing each other and connected by chains, that’s the metaphor that our laws have adopted for burdens of proof.

Proof by a fair preponderance of the evidence requires the plaintiff to put enough evidence on the scale so that the jury can see the scale tip in the plaintiff’s favor.   The scale only has to tip a little bit; literally just enough to see the plate where the evidence has been placed, drop perceptibly.  That’s proof by a fair preponderance of the evidence. 

Once the plaintiff meets its burden of proof as to liability; that is to say, how the accident, or injury, or breached duty happened, then the plaintiff has to prove the actual losses that were caused by the liability.

So, personal injury trials are two part plays;

Proof of Liability and Proof of Damages.

The trial judge will instruct the jury that if the plaintiff has met its burden of proof as to liability they must then decide upon damages; the only guidance that our jury instructions provide is that the jury must be “fair, just and reasonable”.    That’s it.

In his closing argument, an experienced plaintiff’s trial attorney will include a detailed explanation, including illustrations, of what he believes to be an appropriate monetary award for his client.  The jury isn’t bound by attorneys’ closing arguments.  They are only bound by the judge’s instructions.

Closing arguments are where your lawyer’s credibility, competenceeffectiveness and that rare ability to compellingly tell a client’s story, become profoundly important.

The Maddox Law Firm, LLC, and everyone on our team assesses evidence, witness credibility and damages throughout our representation of our clients – our people.  We are a trial law firm; we know the rules of evidence and we understand burdens of proof and we know how to combine them with our mission of driven advocacy in order to win.