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Burden of Proof

Burden of Proof

The burden of proof is one of the most important concepts that accident victims should understand. It will be pivotal to establishing their right to compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering, and other damages. 

More specifically, the burden of proof is essential for understanding what you must be able to prove to win your case. Continue reading this article for an overview of this legal concept.

What Is the Burden of Proof?

What Is the Burden of Proof?

In one sense, the burden of proof is the standard that a party must meet to legally establish a fact in court. There are different types of burdens of proof that apply in different cases. 

The burden of proof determines how much evidence a party must present to demonstrate the underlying facts of the case. When there are multiple elements, the applicable burden of proof must be met for each element. Additionally, who has the burden of proof is an essential consideration. 

Different Burden of Proof Standards

There are many different burden of proof standards found in the law, including:

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt 

Most people are familiar with the standard beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the hardest burden of proof to meet and requires the person making it to show there is no other reasonable explanation for the facts than what the party is alleging. 

This burden of proof applies in criminal cases, given that the consequences are so dire, potentially resulting in the loss of the defendant’s freedom.

By Clear and Convincing Evidence 

Clear and convincing evidence is the next highest burden of proof, yet it is still lower than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This standard applies in cases involving the award of punitive damages

Oregon law explains that for a jury to award punitive damages, the party seeking punitive damages must show the other party acted with malice or a “reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm” and a “conscious indifference to the health, safety, and welfare of others” by clear and convincing evidence.

By a Preponderance of the Evidence

By a preponderance of the evidence means that a fact is more probably true than not. In other words, it is more than 50% certain. This is the standard of proof that applies in most personal injury cases, including car accidents and truck accidents

Probable Cause

Probable cause applies to cases involving obtaining an arrest or search warrant. This burden requires presenting evidence that shows there is a reasonable basis for believing a crime was committed or that evidence of a crime is likely to be found in a place to be searched.

Reasonable Suspicion 

This standard applies to police traffic stops and requires that the officer have an articulable suspicion that a crime has been committed. 

Who Has the Burden of Proof?

The burden of proof is usually on the party seeking a particular court action. For example, in a criminal case, the prosecution has the burden of proof to find the defendant guilty. A law enforcement officer has the burden of proof to show grounds for a warrant exist. 

The plaintiff has the burden of proof in a civil case, including those in personal injury law. This is important for you to realize because the defendant can simply deny your allegations. You will then have to present evidence to show your version of events is the accurate one. 

What Do You Have To Prove in a Personal Injury Case? 

Most personal injury cases are based on negligence. To win a negligence claim, the plaintiff must generally be able to prove the following four elements by the preponderance of the evidence:

The first element you must be able to prove is that the defendant had a legal duty. Some common legal duties include:

  • Motorists have a legal duty to follow the law and the rules of the road.
  • Trucking companies must follow federal and local laws.
  • Doctors have a duty to provide the appropriate standard of care to patients.
  • Nursing homes have a duty to provide the care described in their contract.
  • Product manufacturers have a duty to provide safe products for consumers to use for their intended purposes.

Absent a specific duty, all people generally have a duty to act as a reasonable, prudent person who does not cause foreseeable harm to others. 

Breach of Duty

Next, you must be able to show the defendant breached the duty. For example, in a car accident case, the defendant may have breached their duty to drive carefully by:

  • Speeding
  • Running a red light
  • Texting while driving
  • Drinking while driving
  • Failing to yield the right-of-way
  • Ignoring traffic signs

A lawyer can conduct an investigation to determine how the accident occurred.


You will then have to prove the connection between the defendant’s actions and the accident. The breach of duty must be directly responsible for the accident. Causation might be proven by evidence such as:

  • Traffic camera footage
  • Photos of the accident scene
  • Physical evidence like skid marks or tire treads
  • Event data recorder information 
  • Cell phone records
  • Witness statements

Your lawyer can help gather evidence to establish this element.


Finally, you must be able to show you were harmed in the accident. You may have suffered damages, had to miss work, or suffered pain because of the crash. 

Contact a Portland Personal Injury Lawyer for Help With Your Claim

An experienced Portland personal injury attorney from Tillmann Car Accident & Personal Injury Lawyer can help you prove all of these elements and ensure that you meet your burden of proof. Contact us today at (503) 773-3333 for a free case review and to learn more about how we can assist you in the process.

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