Preponderance of the evidence means the superior weight of evidence upon the issues involved, which, while not enough to free the mind wholly from reasonable doubt, is yet sufficient to incline a reasonable and impartial mind to one side of the issue rather than the other.
The preponderance of the evidence is an evidentiary standard used in most civil cases. It’s a far less stringent standard than that used in criminal cases, which is beyond a reasonable doubt.
Georgia code specifically defines what this term means, and it’s usually explicitly explained to the jury during the trial process. It’s commonly referred to as the “greater weight of the evidence.” Some attorneys will describe it as convincing the jury “beyond 50%”.
What Is a “Burden Of Proof”?
The victim of a civil lawsuit (the plaintiff) always has the burden of proof at trial. That means that you must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the events you are claiming took place and that the defendant involved caused your damages.
It’s unfortunate that the person who was harmed is stuck with this burden, but that’s how the legal system in Georgia, and throughout the United States, was designed. If you want money damages, you have to show that you were harmed and that you need them to compensate for your losses.
How Does a Jury Use the “Preponderance of the Evidence” Standard?
The standard is based on how convincing the evidence presented is. It doesn’t affect how much evidence is presented. That is, the jury will weigh the credibility of witnesses and determine which evidence seems more truthful based on the circumstances. Just because one side gives more evidence than the other doesn’t necessarily mean that they will win based on the “preponderance of the evidence.”
Most people think of “evidence” as being a tangible thing, but the definition of evidence is actually much broader than that. In the average car accident case, for example, evidence may include things like:
- Your testimony
- Witness testimony
- Information from the car repair shop
- Medical records
- Testimony from doctors or other medical professionals
- Pictures of the damage to the vehicle
- Statements from the other driver
- Prior medical records (for the defense to prove a pre-existing condition)
- Photos of the scene of the accident
- Statements from your spouse, children, or friends about how the crash has affected you
- Testimony from a police officer describing the accident and what is contained in the police report
The jury will consider all of this and determine whether the evidence you present is more credible and truthful or if the evidence the defense presents is more reliable and honest. The jury has an essential job in this process, and it should carefully examine all of the information in making its decision.
What Are Other Standards of Evidence?
Different types of cases will use different evidence standards. Perhaps the most well-known is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is used exclusively in criminal cases. Criminal cases are so important that the evidence is under much higher scrutiny.
There are a couple of other standards of evidence that are less common, but they are used in other types of civil cases. They include:
- Clear and convincing evidence. This standard is higher than the preponderance of the evidence. It means that a particular fact is more likely to be true than not to be true. It’s sometimes referred to as a “high probability” that something is true. This standard is often used in family law related cases
- Substantial evidence. This standard is a lower one. It means that a party has shown enough evidence that would allow a reasonable mind to conclude that something is true. It is “adequate” rather than convincing or based on the weight of the evidence. This standard is commonly used in administrative proceedings
Criminal law also uses other standards to describe certain portions of the investigation process. For example; whether an officer acted appropriately will be judged by a “reasonable belief and suspicion” standard, which isn’t technically an evidentiary standard, but it’s still an important part of a criminal case. That type of rule will generally not come into play in a civil lawsuit. But, if your claim deals with an illegal act, such as in a drunk driving accident, it might be referenced in your civil case.
If you are asserting a claim based on a car accident, slip and fall, or dog bite, for example; your evidentiary burden as a victim will be “preponderance of the evidence” in most cases. Let John Foy & Associates help you present your case so you can meet that standard. Talk to our team to learn more. Fill out the form to your right, or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.