Medical Malpractice Claims: The Burden of Proof and O.J. Simpson

by John McKiggan

When someone dies unexpectedly, or suffers a serious but unexpected injury, while they are in a hospital or under the care of a doctor, it is human nature to assume that the hospital or doctor must have made a mistake. Many clients come to me and say: “How could this have happened? The doctor must have screwed up!”

We all want to believe that when something really bad happens to good people, someone will be held responsible. But that is not always the case.

Burden of Proof

The plaintiff (you) has the burden (responsibility) of proving your claim.

Beyond Reasonable Doubt

Anyone who has watched Law & Order or similar shows on television has heard the term: “proof beyond reasonable doubt”. But that is not the burden that applies in a medical malpractice claim. That is the burden of proof that applies to criminal prosecutions.

Balance of Probabilities

In a medical malpractice compensation claim you have the burden of proof: “on the balance of probabilities”. In other words, is it more likely than not that the doctor (or nurse or other health care provider) was negligent and did that negligence cause your injuries?


Scales of Justice?

The easiest way to understand this burden is to consider a pair of scales. All of the evidence for your claim is placed on one side of the scale. All of the evidence against your claim is placed on the other side of the scale. As long as the scales tip to the side for your claim, even a little bit, then you have met the burden of proof on the balance of probabilities.

What Does OJ Have to Do With The Burden of Proof?

OJ Simpson is a living example of the difference between the criminal and civil standards of proof. As everyone in the world now knows, O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murdering his wife, Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman because the jury did not believe that the prosecutors had proven the criminal charges beyond reasonable doubt.

However, when the Goldman family sued O.J. Simpson civilly for causing Ron Goldman’s death, the jury decided that the family had proved on the balance of probabilities that O.J. Simpson was responsible for Ron Goldman’s death.

If you are looking for a Nova Scotia Medical Malpractice Lawyer you can contact me for a free copy of my book: The Consumers Guide to Medical Malpractice Claims in Canada: Why 98% of potential medical malpractice victims never receive a penny in compensation.

If you believe you or a family member believe you may have been injured as a result of medical malpractice you can contact me through this blog, or call me toll free at 1-877-423-2050.

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