What is the Burden of Proof in a Personal Injury Case?

If you are injured and need to recover compensation for an accident caused by another party’s negligence, you will need to do more than just state this. Regardless of whether your accident happened in New York or another state, you will need to prove that it is more likely than not that your claim is factually correct.

In virtually every situation, you will be better able to satisfy this burden of proof if you retain a New York City personal injury lawyer. They will have the skills and experience to collect and analyze all of the facts of your accident. They can present those facts in a way that will best satisfy your burden of proof. Our attorneys at Douglas and London in Manhattan have represented accident victims in this capacity for many years. We have successfully helped our clients to carry their burden of proof and to recover the largest available damages that may be available to compensate them.

Is the Burden of Proof the Same in All Kinds of Legal Matters?

A person’s burden of proof in a personal injury case is very different from the burden of proof that a criminal prosecutor must meet. In criminal cases, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime as charged. This is a much higher standard than in personal injury cases. A plaintiff need only show by a preponderance of the evidence that someone else’s negligence caused the accident and injuries. A plaintiff will satisfy this standard by showing that there is a greater than 50% chance that their claims are valid.

How Can an Accident Victim Satisfy the Burden of Proof in a Personal Injury Case?

Rather than relying only on the oral testimony of the injured party, an experienced personal injury lawyer will present evidence from multiple sources to corroborate that testimony. In a car accident, for example, that evidence might include police accident reports, photographs of the scene, and eyewitness testimony. In more complex cases including, for example, medical malpractice matters, that lawyer might hire an expert to explain the standard of care that a physician is held to for the procedure that led to an injury.

Who Determines if an Accident Victim Has Met Their Burden of Proof?

A plaintiff and a defendant will likely disagree on the facts surrounding the crash. When a personal injury case goes to trial, a jury will be charged with making that decision. The judge’s role is limited to applying the correct laws and legal standards to those facts.   

What is the Burden of Proof for the Party the Negligent Party in a Personal Injury Case?

New York State applies a comparative negligence analysis to accident and injury lawsuits. This means that a negligent party’s liability may be reduced in proportion to the accident victim’s contribution to the accident. The victim’s lawyer will present evidence to demonstrate that their explanation of the accident is the more plausible version of events.

The defendant or their liability insurer will then present evidence of the victim’s actions throughout the accident. In a slip and fall injury case, for example, a defense lawyer might inquire if the victim was looking at a smartphone or some other distraction rather than exercising care and caution. 

A defendant might also present separate evidence to prove one or more affirmative defenses that could excuse the defendant’s liability– even if the victim meets their burden of proof.  Some of the more common affirmative defenses include:

  • the lawsuit was filed after the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations. 
  • the injured party consented to the actions that caused an injury or assumed the risks of that injury.
  • the victim did not mitigate their damages, for example, by failing to consult with a doctor to treat injuries immediately after an accident.
  • a third party caused the accident.

Contact Us for Answers to Your Burden of Proof Questions in Personal Injury Cases

Please fill out our contact form or call our Manhattan offices if you have questions about your burden of proof in a New York personal injury lawsuit.  One of our attorneys will review the facts of your case and explain what you will need to prove to collect compensation to cover the costs of your property losses and personal injuries.


  1. www.dictionary.com: Preponderance of the Evidence. https://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=1586
  2. www.jrank.org: Preponderance of Evidence. https://law.jrank.org/pages/9341/Preponderance-Evidence.html
  3. www.study.com: Preponderance of Evidence: Definition % Standard. https://study.com/academy/lesson/preponderance-of-evidence-definition-standard.html