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What Is A Legal Presumption?


You hear it often in the law, and particularly in personal injury cases: In a given situation, there is a presumption of something. But what does that mean? What is a legal presumption?

A Free Pass to Proof

Normally, when you go into court, you have to prove your case. But you don’t just have to prove your case, you have to prove every element, and fact, that supports your case.

For example, assume that a loved one dies because of negligence or mishandling in a nursing home. There would be a lot of things to prove, but you would generally have to prove that the nursing home had a duty to protect the resident, that they did something wrong (or failed to do something), that what they did or did not do caused the injuries to the resident, and you would have to prove damages.

That’s not to say that everything requires a lot of proof—for example, in a wrongful death case, it’s usually easy to prove that the victim died. In a car accident, you can easily prove that there was an accident, or prove what your medical expenses or bills were.

But a presumption gives you a “free pass.” It allows you to bypass having to prove a fact, and sometimes, it allows you to avoid having to prove an entire part of your case.

Examples of Presumptions

Take, for example, the rear-end presumption of negligence.

When someone rear ends your car, it is presumed that the person who hit you was negligent. That presumption can be overcome by the Defendant, but you as the victim walk into court on Day 1, not having to prove anything as far as liability—it is already determined that the other side was negligent.

Lost evidence can cause a presumption. For example, in our nursing home abuse example above, let’s pretend the nursing home lost or destroyed important video footage that would have shown the victim (the resident) being neglected or abused.

The Court could rule that it is presumed that the abuse occurred. In other words, the victim, as the party that did not destroy or lose evidence, would get the benefit of an assumption that the video, if it existed and wasn’t destroyed, would show the victim being abused,

Presumptions happen a lot in strict liability cases where products are defective. There is a presumption in strict liability that a defective product caused an injury or accident. This presumption saves a victim from some otherwise difficult steps that he or she would have to prove.

Rebutting Presumptions

Often presumptions can be overcome—these are called rebuttable presumptions. However, this still shifts the burden of proof to the Defendant, who now has to “disprove” something. It puts the Defense in the position of having to prove something that it would not normally would have had to prove. Thus, rebuttable presumptions still help the victim.

The Tampa personal injury attorneys at Barbas Nunez Sanders Butler & Hosepian can help you understand what will happen in your personal injury trial. Schedule a consultation today.

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