Appendix C: Will I Win My Case?

If you file a lawsuit, then you have the burden of proof. That means you must present enough testimony in court to convince the jury or judge that you should win. Exactly what you have to prove varies with the type of case. In a negligence case you must prove three points to win your case: (1) an injury, (2) that it was directly or proximately caused by the other side’s conduct, and (3) that conduct causing the injury was negligent (wrongful).

In a civil lawsuit, the definition of wrongful conduct is different than that in a criminal case. Conduct is wrongful in a civil case if it constitutes a breach of duty owed to someone else. In other words, conduct is wrongful if it invades another’s rights.

One type of wrongful conduct is what is known as “negligence.” Negligence is often called carelessness. For example, a careless automobile driver who runs through a stop sign or red light is guilty of negligence because he breached the duty to stop. If that breach causes an injury to another, then he will be liable to that victim for damages.

The burden of proof is often said to be higher or heavier in a criminal case than in a civil case. In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. However, in a civil case, the side bringing the suit to court (the plaintiff) must prove its case by the greater weight of evidence (also called the preponderance of the evidence). The plaintiff’s case must be more convincing than the other side’s case. This is considered a lower burden of proof.

Regardless of the burden of proof, you must persuade the jury to believe that you should win. If the jury doesn’t like you or your claim for some reason, you will lose. Generally, jurors don’t like lawsuits that seem unfair or frivolous. Jurors also tend to dislike people who seem to be getting something for nothing or who seem to be making a mountain out of a mole hill.

To win your case in court, you must have incurred significant damages. You are not going to win if you do not seem to be damaged or injured in any way and if you are unable to prove that the other side is responsible for your losses.

You should discuss your case in detail with your lawyer before you have him or her file a lawsuit for you. Talk about what you will be required to prove in order to win; how likely you are to win; how much in damages you are likely to win; what costs you will incur trying to win; what problems you face in proving your case; what evidence you will need to present in court; what witnesses you will use and how your lawsuit will proceed from start to finish.

No one can predict what a jury is going to do on any particular case. A jury trial is hard work. It causes stress on all involved and can be very time consuming. Don’t file for a jury trial unless you are certain you are willing to pay the costs, both financially and emotionally.