In proving each of the above elements, the Plaintiff must meet the "burden of proof."
While the laws in each state may describe the Burden of Proof differently, each state generally requires the Plaintiff to prove the elements of negligence by a “preponderance of the evidence.”
Some states instruct juries to determine whether it is “more likely than not” that the Defendant caused the deceased’s death. The Burden of Proof in a civil case is much lower than in a criminal case, where the typical standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The Burden of Proof is not a measure of the quantity of evidence that the Plaintiff presents. For example, just because the Plaintiff presents more witnesses at trial than the Defendant, that doesn't mean the Plaintiff has met the Burden of Proof. Rather, the quality and credibility of the evidence is measured. If the Plaintiff fails to meet the burden of proof on any of the elements of negligence, the Plaintiff will not recover any damages.
While many lawsuits are resolved by pre-trial settlement agreements, many cases can only be resolved by going to trial. Depending on the state where the case is being heard, a judge or a jury will decide whether the Plaintiff has met the Burden of Proof on the evidentiary issues. Most states do not require that the jury reach a unanimous verdict, but the rules governing jury deliberations do vary from state to state.
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