Every legal proceeding in the U.S. has a standard of proof. In cases involving personal injuries and accidents, the standard is the one from the civil court system. That standard demands that the preponderance of the evidence shows that the claimant's explanation of what happened is likely to be the correct one.
What does it mean for the preponderance of the evidence to show that a defendant in a civil case was negligent, reckless, or malicious? There are three layers to the process. Here is how a personal injury attorney will usually explain the standard of proof.
Duty of Care
An accident injury attorney has to prove that the defendant had a duty of care. This is a legal responsibility to prevent others from suffering predictable injuries.
When a driver gets in a car, for example, they have a duty to obey the speed limit. Similarly, they have a duty to maintain the vehicle in a safe operating condition. Also, they have a duty to identify objects or people that their vehicle could hit.
Property owners have a duty of care to a certain point. For example, homeowners in most jurisdictions must keep the sidewalks on their property free of debris, large cracks, ice, and other hazards. Notably, inviting people into a place assumes a greater duty of care. Businesses take on a greater duty when they open their doors to the public because people trust that a place of business will be safe.
Similarly, a personal injury lawyer must show that the defendant breached their duty of care. If a store fails to clean up a spill a few seconds after it happens, there probably isn't a breach. However, ignoring the spill a half-hour after customers told a manager about it probably would be a breach.
This is where the preponderance of the evidence comes into the equation. A personal injury attorney has to prove that the defendant was the proximate cause of what happened.
Suppose a bolt of lightning hit an outdoor concertgoer. If the lightning hit out of the blue on a clear day, it's hard to say that the concert organizers or the venue operators were the proximate cause. What happens if the lightning bolt hits during a storm after the organizers had hours of warning? If the organizers didn't delay or cancel the concert, their negligence might be the proximate cause because they had time to get people to a nearby shelter.
A personal injury lawyer might present weather warnings, cell phone notifications, and text messages showing that the organizers ignored the risk. For more information, reach out to local lawyers, such as Cartee & Lloyd Attorneys At Law.