What Is Balance Of Probabilities In Civil Litigation?

Mariam Abu HusseinLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 20th May 2024

The balance of probabilities is the standard of proof used in civil litigation to determine whether a fact is more likely to be true than not true. 

Understanding the balance of probabilities is essential for anyone involved in civil litigation, including defendants and claimants. It forms the basis for assessing evidence, determining liability, and reaching fair and just outcomes in civil cases. 


In this article, we’ll explore the concept of the balance of probabilities in civil litigation, exploring its definition, legal significance, and practical application. We will look at its role in assessing evidence, making legal arguments, and reaching decisions in civil court proceedings. 

What is the balance of probabilities? 

The balance of probabilities refers to the standard of proof used in civil law, where a fact is considered proven if it is more likely to be true than not true.

This standard requires a degree of certainty greater than 50% meaning that the evidence must tip the scales in favour of one party’s version of events. 

How does the balance of probabilities apply to civil law matters?

The balance of probabilities provides the framework for assessing evidence, evaluating witness testimony, and reaching decisions on disputed facts in civil law matters heard in both claims issued at the County Court and the High Court.

Unlike criminal law, where the burden of proof is higher (beyond reasonable doubt), civil cases rely on the balance of probabilities to determine liability. 

How is the balance of probabilities used in civil court? 

In civil court, judges evaluate the evidence presented by each party and assess which version of events is more likely to be true based on the evidence. This involves weighing up the credibility of witnesses, evaluating documentary evidence, and considering expert testimony to arrive at a decision. 

For example: 

  1. In personal injury claims, the claimant must prove that the defendant’s negligence caused their injuries.

  2. In contract disputes, parties may disagree on the terms of the contract or whether a breach occurred The court assesses the evidence, the contract, and communications between parties to decide which interpretation is more likely correct. 

  3. In disputes over child arrangements, divorce settlements, or financial support, the court considers the evidence presented by each party to decide what arrangement is in the best interests of the child or fair to both spouses. 

What factors are considered in assessing probabilities?

When balancing probabilities in civil law matters, the court considers:

  • The strength and persuasiveness of the evidence presented by each party.

  • The credibility of witnesses factoring in bias, motive, and corroboration. 

  • Whether the evidence is legally permissible and relevant to the issues in dispute. 

  • The qualifications, methodology, and reliability of expert witnesses

What is judicial discretion and reasoning? 

Judicial discretion is the authority of judges to make decisions based on their judgment and legal reasoning within the bounds of the law. 

Courts exercise discretion in weighing evidence, resolving conflicts in testimony, and applying legal principles to the facts of the case. Judges provide reasoned explanations for their decisions, considering the evidence presented and the applicable legal standards. 

What is the significance of the balance of probabilities in civil litigation?

The balance of probabilities is the cornerstone of civil litigation, providing the standard of proof used to determine liability or responsibility in disputed matters. It ensures that courts can reach decisions based on the preponderance of evidence, rather than requiring absolute certainty as in criminal cases. 

The balance of probabilities influences the conduct of legal proceedings and the outcomes of civil cases. Parties must present sufficient evidence to meet the standard of proof, and courts weigh the evidence to determine which version of events is more likely to be true. 

The outcome of civil cases depends on this standard, shaping legal precedent and case law. 

For individuals involved in civil disputes, understanding the balance of probabilities is essential for presenting their case effectively and evaluating their chances of success.

Parties must gather and present evidence that supports their claims and addresses any weaknesses in their case. Awareness of the standard of proof also helps parties manage their expectations and make informed decisions throughout the litigation process. 

How can Lawhive help?

If you’re unsure whether or not you have a case, a litigation solicitor can assess your evidence and explain how it impacts the balance of probabilities.

They can identify strengths and weaknesses, highlight key factors that may influence the outcome, and advise you on how to strengthen your case. 

Solicitors can also help prepare legal arguments that effectively address the balance of probabilities, creating persuasive arguments based on the evidence and applicable legal principles, highlighting why your version of events is more likely than the opposing party’s. 

If you are looking to issue a claim in either the County Court or High Court, our network of expert solicitors is on hand to help you understand the balance of probabilities and civil litigation as a whole.

To find out more, contact our Legal Assessment Team today for a free case evaluation and quote for the services of a specialist lawyer. 

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