Anyone who has watched a police procedural television show or a movie that focuses on a criminal trial probably knows the rule for evidence in a criminal case. A prosecutor will need to have evidence that establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime occurred and the defendant played a specific role in that criminal incident. Defense attorneys, therefore, only (theoretically) need to raise valid questions about the accuracy of the state’s case in order to safeguard a client’s rights. Prosecutors and police officers have a big challenge ahead if they want to hold someone accountable for a criminal incident because the standard of proof is so high in criminal court.
That understanding of criminal procedures can sometimes work against individuals who experience some kind of loss because of the actions or failures of another party. People may decide that they don’t want to pursue a lawsuit over a contract breach, a personal injury or a violation of their employment or intellectual property rights because they think that they do not have the necessary evidence to win in court. What these people may not fully understand is that the standard for evidence is vastly different in civil court than it is in criminal court.
A majority of the evidence must back the plaintiff
If a defendant in a civil dispute only needed to establish that there was a reasonable doubt about their actions, it would be far more difficult for people and businesses to protect themselves with a written contract and hold someone else accountable for misconduct. The average person does not have the skill and access together evidence the way that the state can.
Thankfully, they won’t need as much proof to bring a successful lawsuit in civil court. The current standard for evidence in a civil case is that a preponderance of evidence supports the plaintiff’s claim. In other words, there can be some evidence raising questions about their version of events as long as most of the evidence supports their allegations. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff, which means they need to gather enough documentation to support their claims.
The type of evidence that people may gather before filing a civil lawsuit could include financial records, contracts, social media activity and witness statements. Learning more about the rules that apply to business litigation and other civil lawsuits could help someone evaluate whether or not they are in a strong position to take action in civil court, given that the standard of proof that applies in this context is so much lower than it is in criminal court.