Burden of Proof

Motor vehicle accidents often result in insurance claims and legal proceedings, which means they require involved parties to become familiar with a number of technical and legal terms that, while not often used in everyday life, are crucial to know in order to understand what is going on with their case. One of these is burden of proof, a term relevant to both insurance claims and law. In this article, we’ll define this term and explain its relevance to individuals who were involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Key Takeaways

  • Burden of proof exists to make sure legal decisions are fair and based on facts
  • Burden of proof is the duty or provide evidence of allegations one is making
  • The burden of proof lies with the party making a claim or bringing a suit to court
  • There are four elements included in burden of proof: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages

What Is Burden of Proof?

The term “burden of proof” refers to the duty of a party to provide evidence of the allegations that they are making. It’s a legal requirement to determine the validity of a claim based on concrete, factual evidence. The purpose of it is to make sure that legal decisions are made on the basis of fact and not conjecture in order to be as fair as possible. 

How Burden of Proof Applies to Motor Vehicle Accidents

Burden of proof is a large part of insurance claims such as those that are made in the event of a motor vehicle accident. In these situations, the burden of proof lies with the person who has filed the claim. That means that, if you file an insurance claim and want to be compensated for damage to your vehicle and/or physical injury that you sustained, you will be required to provide facts and evidence to prove your claims. 

This might come in the form of:

  • Photos of the scene
  • Police reports 
  • Witness statements
  • Medical records
  • Lost wages statements

The amount of evidence that you need to provide will depend on the circumstances of the accident. In some situations, video footage of the incident will clearly demonstrate that one party is at fault. In other cases, it is less cut and dry. Either way, collecting as much evidence as possible is recommended in order to be able to make the strongest case.

A motor vehicle accident case is a civil trial, not a criminal one, which means that guilt is determined by a preponderance of the evidence. So rather than having to be 100% certain that the accused party is guilty, it has to be only “more likely than not,” or more than 50% evident that the opposing party was indeed negligent.

There are several situations in which a motor vehicle accident insurance claim may find its way to court. These include:

  • When the insured has several different policies covering similar risks
  • When one party’s insurance company sues another’s
  • When the insured believes the insurer provided an insufficient payout

In all of these cases, burden of proof comes into play as the party bringing the suit to the court is required to provide evidence for their claims.

Elements of Burden of Proof

There are four elements of burden of proof that must be present. These include:

  • Duty of care - First, you must establish that the opposing party owed you a duty of care as a fellow driver to drive safely, follow all road safety laws, and maintain their vehicle in good condition.
  • Breach of duty - Next, you must show that the opposing party did not sufficiently meet their duty of care by driving dangerously, driving an unsafe vehicle, etc.
  • Causation - Next, you must prove that the opposed party’s breach of duty caused injury and/or loss to you.
  • Damages - Finally, you’re required to demonstrate the damages you suffered whether that be medical expenses, lost wages, damage to your vehicle, pain, and/or suffering.

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