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A "preponderance of the evidence" and wrongful death lawsuits

Our readers who are familiar with previous posts here know that wrongful death lawsuits are pursued by the surviving family members of a person who is killed in an accident that was caused by another party's negligence. However, these cases can be notoriously tricky to prove in court. One legal term that any plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit will need to become familiar with is "preponderance of the evidence."

Like all other civil lawsuits, a "preponderance of the evidence" is the legal threshold that needs to be met to prove a case. For simplicity's sake, this threshold is often compared to the "beyond a reasonable doubt" threshold that the vast majority of Americans are already familiar with, which is applied in criminal, not civil, court cases.

The good news for plaintiffs in civil lawsuits is that the "preponderance of the evidence" threshold is lower than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" threshold, so it doesn't take an overbearing amount of evidence to prove the case. In most instances, plaintiffs will hear the civil threshold more commonly described as: Is it more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for the accident?

When it comes down to it, that is what a plaintiff is attempting to prove in a wrongful death lawsuit - that the defendant's negligent or reckless conduct caused the accident in question, and that, as a result, the person's family member died, thus depriving the plaintiff of that family member's income and love and affection. However, every plaintiff in a civil case needs to keep the "preponderance of the evidence" threshold in mind.

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