The standard of proof in a compensation claim
I am often asked questions by clients such as, “why don’t the police press charges against the driver responsible for my accident?” or “Does it matter that police haven’t pressed charges against the driver responsible for my accident?” or “why don’t the police seem very interested in thoroughly investigating my accident even though I have been injured?”
The answer for these questions can often be found by considering a legal concept known as the “standard of proof”.
There are two types of matters which the courts and tribunals in New South Wales (and Australia as a whole) consider, criminal cases and civil cases. Compensation claims are civil cases.
Criminal cases and civil cases each have a very different standard of proof.
In a criminal case, the prosecution/police must prove the case “beyond reasonable doubt”. This is a very high standard of proof and requires the prosecution/police to introduce evidence so strong that it eliminates any reasonable doubt about the matters being considered by the court.
Therefore, the reason why police may opt not to further investigate a car accident, or opt not to press charges against the negligent driver, is because police may have formed the view that they cannot achieve such a stringent requirement in a particular case, given their finite resources.
However, the standard of proof in a civil case is much less stringent.
In a civil case, the plaintiff (that is, the injured person) only needs to prove the case “on the balance of probabilities”. That means that, to prove the case, the plaintiff needs to introduce evidence strong enough to satisfy the court that the matters being considered are more likely to have happened than not. Or, as my high school legal studies teacher explained it to me, the likelihood is “50%, plus one”.
It is significantly easier to prove a case on the balance of probabilities than it is to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt. So, even though police may have decided that the evidence did not warrant proceeding with criminal charges in your case, it makes no difference to the question of whether you may be entitled to compensation, because a different set of rules apply to the compensation claim.
If you have been injured in an accident and you believe, on the balance of probabilities, that the accident was someone else’s fault, please contact Stacks Goudkamp on 1800 25 1800 for a free, no-obligation assessment of your claim from one of our compensation specialists, or alternatively, make an online enquiry.
Written by Brett Watts.