Personal injury cases differ greatly from criminal cases. Many of these cases are negotiated out of court and settlement is reached between the person who was injured and the insurance company of the at-fault driver. If the case goes to trial, then a judge or a jury will decide the outcome in a verdict.
Understanding the burden of proof in personal injury
After a serious injury you, the victim, will have the burden of proof. This means you need to prove, essentially, two things: negligence and liability.
- Negligence means that the behavior of the other driver caused accident. For example, if the other driver was drunk, texting or speeding, then they were negligent.
- Liability means the other driver had a responsibility. The other driver had a responsibility to drive sober, to focus on driving and not on their phone and to stay within the speed limit. If they did not do this, they are liable.
You do not have to prove negligence and liability beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, in a personal injury case you will need to show a preponderance of evidence. This means that is is likely that the accident happened because the other driver did something or did not do something and the accident, and your injuries, happened because of this.
What if I am partially to blame for the accident?
In Oregon the insurance process uses a comparative fault system. This means that even if you are partly to blame, you can still pursue compensation. So, if you are in a car accident where the court decides you are to receive $50,000 but the jury determines that you were 10% at fault, you will receive 90% of the $50,000, or $45,000.
There are three types of comparative negligence: pure, modified and slight-gross. In Oregon, we use a a modified comparative negligence system. This means that you can be awarded damages only if your negligence is equal to or less than the other driver’s negligence. So, if you are more than half at fault, say 55%, you cannot collect damages. In any personal injury case it is in your best interest to consult a personal injury attorney.