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Better Understand the Law

Is proving a personal injury case the same as proving a criminal case?

No, not at all. The most important distinction between a personal injury and a criminal case is the burden of proof.

  • A personal injury case requires that you (the injured person) prove your case by a “preponderance of the evidence“.
  • A criminal case means that the prosecutor must prove the case “beyond a reasonable doubt“.

We like to use a football analogy to explain burden of proof.

  • To prove your civil case (PI case), you must get the football to the 51st yard line. That’s “preponderance of the evidence”.
  • To prove a criminal case, the prosecutor must get the football almost – just about to – the goal line. That’s “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

Some personal injury cases would have a criminal case as well.

  • For example, if your spouse was killed by a drunk driver, you would be entitled to sue for wrongful death (personal injury case) and the prosecutor could bring a drunk driving, vehicular homicidecase (criminal case) as well.
  • For example, the OJ Simpson case had both a (civil) personal injury – wrongful death – lawsuit brought by Nicole Simpson Brown and Ronald Goldman’s parents and a criminal murder case brought by LA prosecutors.

    The Simpson case shows that it is easier to prove a (civil) personal injury case than a criminal case because of the differing burdens of proof.

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