Understanding the Burden of Proof in Medical Malpractice Cases

BIKLaw Medical Malpractice Lawyer > Medical Malpractice > Understanding the Burden of Proof in Medical Malpractice Cases

If you are a fan of television courtroom dramas, you are likely familiar with the phrase “burden of proof.” In many of these shows, the characters use this term in connection with another phrase, “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

These two phrases show how much evidence the protagonist, who is usually a prosecutor, must present to a jury before they can obtain a conviction against the person charged with a crime. The protagonist’s “burden of proof” is to present enough evidence to show guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Similar principles are at play in a medical malpractice case. As the injured patient, it is your and your medical malpractice attorney’s “burden” to prove your case.

This burden differs from the one prosecutors must meet in a criminal case and is more favorable to you. However, this does not necessarily mean that proving your case is easy.

Preponderance of the Evidence Explained

Medical malpractice lawsuits are civil cases, as opposed to criminal. As such, the burden of proof in a medical malpractice case is decided by a “preponderance of the evidence.” Proving a case by a preponderance of the evidence means the evidence weighs more in your favor than the other party.

Some have described the term “preponderance of the evidence” as “more likely than not.”

If you picture a set of scales with evidence as the weights, when the weight of evidence causes one side of the scales to dip lower than the other, this dip means that the evidence on that side of the scales weighs heavier than the other. Any dip, however slight, is sufficient to meet the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence.

If you bring a medical malpractice lawsuit, you have the burden of proving it is more likely true than not true that you have been the victim of medical negligence.

Every Element of Your Case Must Be Proved

The burden of proof applies to each element of your medical malpractice case. An element is a single factual proposition that must be true for your claim to proceed. In a medical malpractice case, there are several of these elements:

  • Your doctor or medical provider owed you a duty to provide competent care
  • That provider instead provided deficient and substandard care
  • The level of care you received caused you to be injured
  • Your injuries can be compensated through an award of monetary damages

Because you have the burden of proof, you and your lawyer must come forward with enough evidence showing that every one of these elements is more likely to be true than not.

If a judge or jury finds that you did not meet your burden of proof on even one element, your medical malpractice claim will fail, and you will not receive any compensation.

How to Meet Your Burden of Proof in a Medical Malpractice Case

You meet your burden of proof by presenting objective evidence and the testimony of lay witnesses and expert witnesses to the judge or jury at a trial. These witnesses and items of evidence should be credible and in accord with the facts about your incident that are known and undisputed. Your case may be proven through the following:

  • Your medical history and records from the procedure or treatment that caused your injury
  • Testimony of nurses and others who observed the act that led to your injuries
  • Hospital policies and best practices that your medical team should have followed
  • Reports and testimony from expert witnesses who have examined you or your medical records and can comment on the type of care you received

There is no set amount of evidence or testimony you need to present to prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence.

Theoretically, you can win your medical malpractice case with just one credible witness. You can also lose your medical malpractice case despite having presented dozens of witnesses whom the judge or jury does not find believable.

Reach Out for Help from a Knowledgeable Medical Malpractice Lawyer

At The Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., our attorney is not just a lawyer but a licensed California physician as well. This gives our firm a unique perspective on your medical injury case and the ability to diagnose what evidence and witnesses you need to present the most compelling case possible.

Contact The Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. to discuss your case with us today.

Questions? Contact us