The average Illinois resident has little to no experience with the Illinois legal system. When most people sustain a serious personal injury or lose a loved one in a wrongful death accident, they may be unsure of what the civil claims process even entails. If you are interested in bringing a civil claim for damages in Illinois, it is a good idea to educate yourself about legal procedures and rules that will likely be involved in your case. One issue that many people misunderstand when it comes to civil matters such as personal injury claims is the “burden of proof.”
Establishing the Defendant’s Negligence
A personal injury claim or wrongful death claim is a legal action in which a plaintiff seeks “damages” or financial compensation for the losses caused by the injury or death. The plaintiff’s losses may have been caused by the defendant’s intentional or malicious actions or the case may be founded upon the concept of negligence. To prove that a defendant was negligent, the following main points must be proven:
- The defendant had a “duty” or legal obligation to act a certain way. For example, drivers have a duty to obey traffic laws and drive responsibly.
- The defendant breached this duty. The breach of duty may be based on the defendant’s actions or inaction.
- The plaintiff’s injuries or the deceased person’s death was caused by the defendant’s breach of duty.
- The plaintiff experienced damages such as lost income, property damage, or medical bills as a result of the injuries or death.
Understanding the Burden of Proof in Illinois Personal Injury Cases
If you have ever watched a legal television show such as Law and Order, you may have heard the phrase “burden of proof.” The burden of proof in a legal case determines which party has the “burden” or responsibility of proving a particular claim and how much evidence will be needed to prove the claim. In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that the jury must be exceedingly certain of a defendant’s guilt.
In an Illinois personal injury or wrongful death claim, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff or person who is bringing the personal injury or wrongful death claim. The plaintiff and his or her attorney typically must prove the required elements “by a preponderance of evidence.” This standard is lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. The phrase “by a preponderance of evidence” means that the plaintiff must prove that the claim is more likely true than not true. Put another way, at least 51 percent of the evidence must support the plaintiff’s claim.
Contact a Joliet Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one were injured by the reckless, negligent, or malicious actions of another party, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Contact Schwartz Injury Law to learn more. Call our office at 815-723-7300 today and schedule your free, no-obligation case review with one of our experienced Will County personal injury attorneys.