shifting the burden of proof

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Shifting the burden of proof means to change the responsibility of proving or disproving a point from one party to the other party. Shifting the burden of proof is used in a variety of legal areas to allow more flexibility in courtroom procedure. In operation, if a party meets a certain burden of proof on something, then shifting the burden of proof still allows the other party to make counterpoints before a judge or jury decides the issue. Shifting the burden of proof is very useful in areas where fault or evidence is difficult to pin-down but society has a large interest in protecting plaintiffs. For example, if a plaintiff was in a car wreck which they claim was due to a vehicular malfunction, it is hard to reverse the clock to determine positively whether a malfunction existed and caused the accident. According to evidence standards for other areas, the vehicle owner often would not be able to prove the manufacturer was responsible. However, shifting the burden of proof would allow the plaintiff to meet a lesser burden than may be required for other areas while giving the manufacturer the ability to rebut the possibly minimal evidence. 

[Last updated in July of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]