THE BURDEN OF WHAT?

We constantly hear about “the burden of proof” in the criminal cases that are in the media. We have all heard the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” so many times that most of us have a strong sense of the fact that for something to be found true in court the jury needs to be certain. No doubts about their verdict at all. We all know this, but it is not true. The “burden of proof” changes from one case to the next.

Now, it is true (or it is supposed to be) that to find against somebody who has been alleged to have committed a crime you have to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. But what about in Phoenix personal injury cases where the decision is being made as to whether somebody else caused an injury and how much money they should have to pay as a result of the injury they caused? Do those cases have to be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt?” Absolutely, not.

Even calling it a burden of proof can be a little bit misleading because it is really, as defined in Arizona’s jury instructions, a “burden of persuasion.” Basically, oversimplified a little bit, it is a 51% v. 49% standard. For instance, if the Suns win a basketball game 122 to 121, they still won. They may not have won it the equivalent of “beyond a reasonable doubt” if we were going to continue the analogy, but they still won. Another way to look at it is if someone had 100 pounds of sand on one side of the scale and another 100 pounds of sand on the other side of the scale, there would have been an equal amount in every way. But one more grain of sand, one more drop of evidence on one side or the other, and the “burden of persuasion” for a civil case has been met.

Why the different standards? Justice is a central part of any case, regardless of whether it is a lawsuit for money or a person alleged to have committed a crime. Somebody who files a lawsuit because they have been injured, or for any money damages, is seeking justice. They want to correct an injustice that was done to them and get compensation they are entitled to under the law. On the other hand, to put somebody in jail, to convict them of a crime, it is not enough for the jury to believe they are right, the certainty has to be at a much higher level. Let’s face it. No matter how much we all want to avoid a civil judgment, there is no penalty in our system equal to the criminal penalties of incarceration or worse.

So, now you know the burden of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt standard applies to criminal cases. A preponderance standard applies to most civil and personal injury cases. And, obviously, any case that I am working on should be judged against the “if Mark says it, it must be true” standard!

Whatever your personal injury case is, you need to have the personal injury attorney representation of a good Phoenix Arizona personal injury attorney. Alexis Breyer and her husband and partner Mark Breyer are ready to build an aggressive case to help you get the compensation and restitution that you deserve. Call Breyer Law Offices, P.C. today.

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