Burden of Proof

What Is Burden of Proof?

Burden of proof is a legal standard that requires parties to demonstrate that a claim is valid or invalid based on facts and evidence presented. Burden of proof is typically required of one party in a claim, and in many cases, the party that is filing a claim is the party that must demonstrate that the claim is valid and carry the burden of proof.

Key Takeaways

  • The burden of proof is a legal requirement that determines the viability of a claim based on the factual evidence produced.
  • Typically, the onus for burden of proof lies with the party initiating or filing a claim.
  • Burden of proof is used extensively in cases involving insurance claims or lawsuits involving financial malfeasance.
  • The intended goal of burden of proof is to ensure that legal decisions are determined based on facts rather than conjecture, supporting all parties in fairness.
  • In civil cases, the ruling is based on a preponderance of the evidence, i.e. more than 50% of the evidence provided must point to something useful in determining whether the case should proceed.

Understanding Burden of Proof

The burden of proof requirement is designed to ensure that legal decisions are made based on facts rather than by conjecture. As a result, the party bringing a case or lawsuit to court must often back up their claims with facts and evidence, physical or otherwise.

As in all civil cases, the ruling is based on a preponderance of the evidence—i.e. more than 50% of the evidence provided must point to something useful in determining whether the case should proceed. Burden of proof and collection of evidence is part and parcel that lawyers engage in as part of their business.

In insurance, it is used in the courts to determine whether a loss is covered by an insurance policy. Typically, the insured has the burden of proof to demonstrate that a loss is covered under the policy, while the insurer has the burden of proof to demonstrate that a loss was excluded under the terms of the policy contract.

Sorting out Insurance Claim Responsibility

Demonstrating Responsibility

Insurance companies will often use the courts to determine which company is responsible for providing coverage when more than one insurer is involved. This situation occurs in circumstances in which the insured has several different policies covering similar or related risks or when one party's insurance company sues another, for instance in the case of a car accident involving two or more vehicles.

The insurers are required to demonstrate either that the loss was caused by an event that was not covered under the policy, or that another insurance company is responsible for the coverage. The courts may decide that a particular policy is responsible for providing coverage, but may also determine that the different insurers are responsible for a portion of the loss.

Proving Coverage

Providing information to prove that insurance coverage applies can be complicated. For example, a homeowner's house is destroyed during a hurricane. The homeowner’s policy may provide coverage for losses caused by wind but not by water. The insured must prove that the destruction was caused by wind damage, while the insurer will try to prove that the damage was caused by water. The courts may find that both types of risk caused the damage.

There are two types of statements that require burden or proof: An assertion carries a burden of proof and a presumption carries a conditional burden of proof. Assumptions do not carry any burden of proof.

In a fair number of insurance cases that get to court, negligence is alleged. This has been defined as the failure to exercise reasonable care. Insurers will try to prove that the insured failed to do something a reasonable person would do, or conversely, did something a reasonable person wouldn't do.

Example of Burden of Proof

Susan decides to invest $20,000 with Global Investors ABC, an investment management firm that has received a lot of positive reviews. After six months, with a downturn in the financial markets, Susan's entire $20,000 investment is wiped out.

Susan believes that the loss of her money is due to the mismanagement of her money by the investors at Global Investors ABC as opposed to the downturn in the financial markets. The burden of proof lies with Susan. She will need to prove in court exactly how Global Investors ABC mismanaged her money that led to the entire loss of her investment as opposed to the natural movements of the financial markets.

What Is the Definition of Burden of Proof?

The definition of burden of proof is the responsibility of an individual or party to prove an assertion or claim that they have made. The burden of proof can apply to a variety of situations, such as a scientist claiming a theory, a civil case, or a criminal case. In a criminal case, for example, the prosecutor will have to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Who Bears the Burden of Proof in a Civil Case?

In a civil case, the burden of proof is borne by the plaintiff or the person filing the lawsuit, and this must be done by a preponderance of the evidence. The plaintiff must convince a jury that the claims are more likely true than not true.

With Which Party Does the Burden of Proof Lie in a Criminal Trial?

In a criminal trial, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. The prosecution must convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the charges brought against them.

Who Bears the Burden of Proof in an Insurance Case?

In an insurance case, the insured bears the burden of proof. The insured has to prove that the claim falls under the insurance policy. The insurer, on the other hand, bears the burden of proof in demonstrating that the claim does not fall under the insurance policy, and, therefore, is not responsible for paying any claims.