Burden of Proof in New York Personal Injury Cases

In New York State Courts, the Plaintiff, or the person that is suing for money damages, has the burden of proof, meaning that the New York plaintiff must present evidence establishing that he or she is entitled to recover compensation from the defendant. Conversely, the defendant has no legal obligation to prove or disprove anything. The burden of proof in a New York civil case, which is a lawsuit for monetary damages, such as in a motor vehicle accident, or trip and fall accident, or in a case of medical malpractice, or injuries from an animal bite, to use some examples, is “a preponderance of the evidence.” A preponderance of evidence is defined as evidence establishing that it is slightly more likely than not that the defendant is legally responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.

There is a huge distinction between the burden of proof of a prosecutor in a criminal case, which is “beyond a reasonable doubt”, and the much lesser burden of proof in a civil case of a preponderance of the evidence. To use an example that everyone is familiar with, the criminal jury in the O.J. Simpson failed to convict Mr. Simpson of murder, yet a civil jury in California found that Simpson was civilly liable for causing Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman’s deaths–the lawyers in the civil case were able to prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” that it was more likely than not that Simpson had killed his wife and Mr. Goldman.