What is the burden of proof in a civil lawsuit in New York?

Posted over 1 year ago. Applies to New York, 4 helpful votes

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I am positive that after you watch a TV show or movie about a criminal trial you will know exactly what the prosecutor has to prove in order to have a criminal found guilty.

In a criminal case,the prosecutor has to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime. That is a very significant burden.

In a civil lawsuit involving medical malpractice, a car accident, or even a wrongful death, the attorney who represents the injured victim or their family has very little to prove. That seems contradictory compared to what a prosecutor must prove a criminal case, doesn't it?

In fact, the attorney representing an injured victim only has to show that we are more likely right than wrong. That's it. That is known more commonly as a “preponderance of evidence." We don't really have to “prove" anything. We do however have to show that our version of the events is more likely right that wrong.

What this really means is that when the jury goes back to deliberate and decide your case, they don't have to sit there for days and weeks trying to make absolutely sure that what we are saying is 100% correct. Nor do they have to be 100% sure that the doctor did something wrong in a medical malpractice case. Nor do we have to show with 100% certainty that the careless driver went through a red light.

Instead, we merely have to show that we are more likely right than wrong that the doctor was careless. We only have to show that we are more likely right than wrong that the driver of the other car went through a red light. The jury does not have to sit there and continue being frustrated trying to figure out whether they are actually 100% that what we are saying is true.

If the jury finds that the injured victim and the defendant (the person being sued) is equally responsible, then they will be required to return a verdict in favor of the defense. That means they will not award any money to the injured victim. However, if they determine that the injured victim has shown that they are more likely right than wrong, then they are required by law to award a verdict in favor of the injured victim or his family.

Many people mistakenly believe that the injured victim has to show beyond a reasonable doubt that they are entitled to compensation. This is not true.

Instead, we need only show that we are more likely right than wrong.

Additional Resources

Gerry's Medical Malpractice YouTube Channel

Gerry's Educational Medical Malpractice Website

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