What is the 'Burden of Proof' in a Negligence or Medical Malpractice Case in New York?

Posted almost 2 years ago. Applies to New York, 1 helpful vote

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Many people believe that when an injured victim brings a lawsuit seeking compensation for their accident, negligence case, medical malpractice case or wrongful death case in New York, that they are required to prove their case "Beyond a reasonable doubt." That is 100% incorrect.

The reason why some make that assumption is because of all the TV shows and movies they have watched involving criminal cases. The phrase "Beyond a reasonable doubt" refers to be challenging requirements that a prosecutor must prove when showing that someone is guilty of a crime.

In a civil lawsuit in New York, the injured victim is not required to prove that. The legal term that you may have read about in a civil case is called a "Preponderance of evidence." Now what exactly does that mean?

It means we simply have to show that our version of what occurred is more likely right than wrong. That's it. We do not have to show anything with certainty; only that we are more likely right that wrong that the person who caused your harm was careless.

We only have to show that we are more likely right that wrong that a doctor or hospital departed from good and accepted medical care and caused your injury.

Some people believe that 'more likely right than wrong' is a little unfair because we only have to tip the scales ever so slightly beyond 50% in order to justify an award or verdict in our favor.

There are others who believe that we should have a higher burden in order to justify getting compensated.

Importantly, I tell jurors during jury selection that they need not sit in judgment for weeks deliberating trying to determine with certainty whether what we are claiming is true. Instead, we are only required to show that we are more likely right than wrong.

Some jurors are not comfortable making a decision using that standard. Others want more certainty. Regardless of their personal desires, I remind them that they are required to follow the law as the judge gives it to them.

If the judge tells them that is the standard by which they must evaluate this case, I need to know whether they can follow those instructions. If they have a moral or ethical problem following those instructions then we may ask the court to remove that potential juror.

Watch the video to learn more.

Additional Resources

Gerry's Medical Malpractice YouTube Channel

Gerry's Educational Medical Malpractice Website

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Related Topics

Negligence and personal injury

Negligence is a key concept of injury liability, and occurs when someone fails to take a reasonable amount of care to avoid injuring others.

Medical malpractice and personal injury

Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional's negligence causes injury to a patient. Incorrect actions and inaction can both be forms of negligence.

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