“Preponderance of the Evidence” in a California Personal Injury Case

In a California personal injury case, facts must generally be proved by a “preponderance of the evidence.” A plaintiff has proved a fact by a “preponderance of the evidence” if it is “more likely than not” that the fact is true.1

"Preponderance-of-the-evidence" requires a jury (or judge) to believe that the existence of a fact is more probable than its nonexistence.2

It is a lower standard of proof than “clear and convincing” evidence, which is generally used when a plaintiff is seeking punitive damages in a California personal injury case.

(It is also a much lower burden than proof “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the standard needed to convict a defendant in a California criminal case).

Example: Jeff claims that Kenneth ran a red light and smashed into his car. Jeff is suing Kenneth for compensatory damages of $145,000 (for medical bills, lost wages, car repair bills and pain suffering) plus punitive damages of $100,000.
To prevail on his claim for compensatory damages Jeff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Kenneth was responsible for the car accident.
But in order to get punitive damages, Jeff must prove by clear and convincing evidence that Kenneth acted with “malice, oppression or fraud.” In other words, he must prove that it was highly probably that Kenneth acted with recklessness (or at least more than ordinary negligence).

Injured in California? Call us for help…

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If you or someone you know was injured due to someone else's negligence, gross negligence, recklessness or intentional wrongful act(s), we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

Whether you were hurt due to a car accident, a “slip-and-fall,” a work accident, harm to your reputation or a defective product, our caring lawyers may be able to help.

Call (855) 396-0370 to speak to an experienced California personal injury lawyer about your case.

And know that we do not take a fee unless we win your case at trial or obtain a settlement that you approve of.

We have offices throughout the state of California to serve your needs -- including in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties as well as the Central Valley and Northern California.

We also have Reno and Las Vegas personal injury lawyers to serve your needs if you were injured in Nevada.


Legal references: 

  1. California Evidence Code section 115; Weiner v. Fleischman (1991) 54 Cal.3d 476.
  2. In re Angelia P. (1981) 28 Cal.3d 908; California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 200.

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