Burden of Proof

“In the law of evidence, the necessity or duty of affirmatively proving a fact or facts in dispute on an issue raised between the parties in a cause.” There are two meanings for this term: “(1) the duty of producing evidence as the case progresses, and (2) the duty to establish the truth of the claim by preponderance of the evidence, and though the former may pass from party to party, the latter rests throughout upon the party asserting the affirmative of the issue” (Black’s Law Dictionary). “A party’s job of convincing the decision-maker in a trial that the party’s version of the facts is true. In a civil trial, it means that the plaintiff must convince the judge or jury by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff’s version is true — that is, over 50% of the believable evidence is in the plaintiff’s favor” (Nolo’s Law Dictionary). “Generally used to describe the threshold that a party seeking to prove a fact in court must reach in order to have that fact legally established… comprised of… the burden of production and the burden of persuasion” (Cornell Law School).

Example Sentence

Because Jody had accused Mallory of causing the accident, the burden of proof was upon Jody to show that Mallory had indeed caused the accident.

Case Study

Doug had been seriously injured because of a drunk driver slamming into his car. He hired a lawyer to help him recover the costs of all his medical, living, and car expenses that came as a result of the accident. Despite seeming obvious that the drunk driver was at fault, Doug still had the burden of proof to show that the accident was caused because of the negligence of the drunk driver. He had to show that the other driver was indeed drunk, that his speeding caused the accident, and that Doug was not at fault in any major way in order to secure payment of his expenses from the case.

Other Important Information

If insufficient evidence is produced by the plaintiff, then they will lose the case because the burden of proof is upon him or her (Black’s Law Dictionary). The burden of proof can be shifted if one side persuasively shows evidence casting the doubt onto the other side. The other side would then need to defend themselves against the evidence in order to shift the burden of proof back (Black’s Law Dictionary). “The burden of proof may shift to the defendant if the defendant raises a factual issue in defense to the plaintiff’s claims” (Nolo’s Law Dictionary). In a car accident where someone is killed, the assumption is that the other driver was using caution for his/her own safety. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show that this was not true or the case will be dismissed (Utah Auto Law). Similarly, in a car accident, if the defendant was speeding, it is not assumed that this caused the accident. Instead, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show that the speeding or some other negligent behavior caused the accident (Utah Auto Law). If a relative was driving the vehicle, then the burden of proof is on the insured person to show that they reside at the insured person’s home in order to be covered under the insurance (Utah Auto Law).

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Personally reviewed by Attorney Ken Christensen


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