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What is the burden of proof in a civil lawsuit?

A lot of Tennesseans have seen legal shows on television that always require an attorney to show guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before a conviction can be obtained. While criminal defendants certainly must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before they can be punitively punished, the burden is far different in a civil lawsuit. In the civil context, an individual can prevail simply by showing liability by a preponderance of the evidence.

Preponderance of the evidence is a legal phrase meaning that the claim was more likely to have occurred than not. In other words, if 51 percent of the evidence supports one side's claim, then that party wins. Thus, the burden of proof in a civil lawsuit is far less than that used in a criminal proceeding. This means that it might be easier for an individual to recover compensation through a car accident lawsuit than he or she thought. Additionally, even though a defendant may not be convicted in a criminal court because guilt was not shown beyond a reasonable doubt, he or she could still be held civilly liable if there is a preponderance of the evidence.

Knowing the burden of proof in a civil lawsuit is extremely important for those who have been injured in a car accident. These victims, who may suffer excruciating pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages, may be able to put their minds at ease knowing that they have a real shot at recovering compensation from the negligent driver who harmed them.

However, though the preponderance of the evidence standard is lesser than guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, it is still is not always easy to hurdle. For this reason, Tennessee residents who have been injured in an accident may want to consider speaking with an experienced Knoxville attorney to learn of their legal rights and how best to act on them in an effort to recover the compensation they need and deserve.

Source: Legal Information Institute, "Preponderance of the evidence," accessed on Oct. 20, 2014

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