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Burdens of Proof and Evidentiary Standards

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Archive: Mar 2018

Burdens of Proof and Evidentiary Standards

Supporting your case with proof is a central part of all legal proceedings. Because of the importance of providing evidence, the California court system has outlined specific rules called burdens of proof and evidentiary standards that determine who is in charge of showing proof and what level of proof is necessary.

The Burden of Proof

The burden of proof determines which party needs to provide the evidence. The plaintiff is responsible for providing evidence in the majority of cases.

The plaintiff needs to show the court testimonies, documents, pictures, or objects, referred to as the burden of production. After the plaintiff has provided ample evidence, the burden of production moves to the defendant, who has the chance to bring forth their own evidence that either supports their argument or negates the plaintiff’s claims.

Evidentiary Standards in Civil Cases

Preponderance of the Evidence

The standards for evidence are different for civil cases and criminal cases. In civil cases, the standard of proof is the preponderance of the evidence. The preponderance of the evidence requires the plaintiff to provide evidence that shows the court their argument is more likely to be true than not. Some legal experts and scholars define the preponderance of evidence as the requirement that at least 51% of the evidence effectively supports the plaintiff’s argument.

Clear and Convincing Evidence

Some civil cases require a higher standard of evidence than the preponderance of evidence standard. The clear and convincing evidence standard requires the plaintiff to have evidence that is significantly more effective. The evidence must prove there is a high probability that your argument is true.

Substantial Evidence

Used mostly in administrative law proceedings, the substantial evidence standard requires the plaintiff to bring forth enough evidence so that any reasonable person would have enough solid information to believe the argument.

Evidentiary Standards in Criminal Cases

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The standards for evidence in criminal cases are almost all significantly higher than in civil cases. The beyond a reasonable doubt standard is one of the most commonly known evidentiary standards. It is the highest standard and is the norm for most criminal cases. The beyond a reasonable doubt standard requires the evidence to show that there is no explanation other than the plaintiff’s argument.

Probable Cause

The probable cause standard more directly applies to police officers, judges, and other legal figures. Before searching a location or seizing goods, the probable cause standard requires officers and judges to be able to prove that all of the information they have makes it likely that they will find evidence of a crime.

Reasonable Belief and Reasonable Suspicion

Another standard that applies to police officers, the reasonable belief and reasonable suspicion standards dictate that the police acted on reasonable conclusions. Any action that an officer takes without explicit permission must be logical.

Credible Evidence

Credible evidence in a criminal proceeding does not require evidence to be true, but that it must be sufficiently relevant for the jury to consider it. Some legal experts and scholars have defined the credible evidence standard as the requirement that the jury sees the evidence as natural, reasonable, and probable.

Find Help From Us

If you or a loved one is pursuing a legal case, you need experienced and skilled help from an attorney who has extensive knowledge of California’s laws. The attorneys at DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo provide dedicated representation for people in California. For representation or advice on potential legal proceedings, contact us today.

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Can You Sue Caltrans for Damage Incurred on the Road?

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is in charge of keeping California’s roads safe, but sometimes unsafe road conditions can be at fault for car accidents or damage to your car.

Proving Liability

In many liability cases, there is a party who is clearly responsible for the incident. With damage from debris on the roads, however, there is rarely one party that is clearly to blame. There are many different factors that go into determining liability for damage due to poor road maintenance. For example, if you were breaking a traffic law by driving over the speed limit or driving recklessly and you could have avoided the poor road condition had you been driving responsibly, the court will most likely determine you to be liable to some degree. If the damage to yourself or your car was due to debris that fell off a truck in front of you, the court would most likely see the truck company or driver as more liable.

The foundational aspect to proving liability is negligence. You need to prove that Caltrans had a duty to maintain the road and that their failure to uphold that duty was the cause of your damage. Caltrans has the duty of maintaining California roads so that they are safe to drive on. In situations where poor road condition developed very recently, assigning liability for damage to your vehicle can become complicated. Considering the sheer number of roads that they are responsible for and the frequency of debris, potholes, or cracks on them, Caltrans cannot fix every single issue immediately as it happens. They are, however, required to fix road issues within a reasonable period of time. If the road has been in poor condition for a relatively long time, they are liable for damages.

Possible Damages You Could Be Awarded

If you win your case against Caltrans, you may receive compensation in the form of damages to help you recover from the incident. The first part of the award will be composed of any medical expenses if you suffered an injury or repair expenses if there was damage to your car. If you did suffer harm, you may also receive compensation for wages if you needed to take days off work or if the incident reduced your overall earning potential. The courts also may consider compensation for pain and suffering and loss of consortium.

California follows the Pure Comparative Negligence Rule. The pure comparative negligence rule allows the court to adjust the compensation depending on the percentage that each party was at fault. For example, if the courts determine you to be 20% responsible for the damage, they will reduce your compensation by 20%. In this example, for an award of $10,000, the plaintiff would receive $8,000. In California, you may still receive some level of compensation even if the courts determine you to be more responsible for the incident than the defendant.

Contact Our Attorneys

Highways are extremely dangerous places, and it is important that city and counties keep them in good condition so drivers can stay safe. If you suffered an injury or your vehicle incurred damage on a California highway, contact DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo. We have extensive knowledge of California law and can help you determine if Caltrans is liable. If you decide to file a claim against them we will also provide you with aggressive and skillful representation.

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Can an Employer Garnish My Benefits?

Accidents happen all the time in the workplace, across all professions. Receiving workers’ compensation from your employer is a vital part of being able to keep an injury from affecting your entire life. Luckily, federal law usually protects these benefits from garnishment.

What Is Garnishment?

Garnishment is a legal order for your employer to keep some of your earnings and send them to any of your creditors. There are specific types of income that employers can garnish.

Types of Income Garnishment

Wage garnishment is the most common type of garnishment. For consumer debts such as car loans and credit card payments, employers can garnish a maximum of 25% of an employee’s pay and send it to pay those debts. Employers can garnish up to 50% of an employee’s salary for payments such as child support and federal tax debt.

Whether an employer can garnish payments outside of your salary depends on if the law considers those payments income. Federal law considers bonuses and commissions income and will subject them to garnishment; however, most states do not allow garnishment on tips.

Employers usually cannot garnish unemployment benefits unless you received severance from your former employer. Federal law considers severance a form of income. The government protects Social Security Disability benefits and pensions from garnishment unless the payments are going to child support or federal taxes. Employers can only garnish Veterans Affairs benefits if the payment is going to child support or income taxes. Employers cannot garnish Veterans Affairs benefits for consumer debts.

The federal government qualifies income related to investments such as stock earnings or payments from rental properties as income, allowing your employer to garnish them.

Garnishment in California

Under California law, creditors need a court order to get wage garnishments. In situations where debt includes income taxes that are unpaid, court-ordered child support, child support arrears, and defaulted student loans, a court order is not required.

Unlike some other states, California has not created stricter laws for garnishment. California garnishment follows the rules that the federal government outlined, allowing creditors to take the lesser of 25% of your earnings or the amount that your weekly disposable income exceeds 40 times the state hourly minimum wage. You can be subject to garnishment for more than one debt, but your employer can still only take a maximum of 25% of your pay.

Workers’ Compensation and Garnishments

The federal government usually protects workers’ compensation payments from garnishment. The government considers workers’ compensation a public benefit, so federal law protects these benefits. Depending on the state, however, there can be exceptions. California law allows employers to garnish workers’ compensation if the payments are going toward child support, income taxes, or student loans.

Though California and federal laws protect your workers’ compensation payments, it is still important to keep an eye on them, so that your employer does not garnish them. Many experts recommend keeping the workers’ compensation payments separate from other sectors of your income so that you can more easily track the sum.

Consult an Attorney

If you believe your employer, or the employer of a loved one, wrongfully garnished your workers’ compensation payments, you need help from an expert who has extensive knowledge of California garnishment and workers’ compensation laws. The skilled and dedicated workers compensation attorneys at DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo can give advice and representation to keep your employer from illegally garnishing your workers’ compensation. Request a free consultation today.

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