3 Critical Pieces of Evidence to Prove a Negative

prove a negativeThe legal process to prove a negative is hard, but not impossible.

If a person uses evidence to show an event or situation did not occur, this is called proving a negative.

When might you see this problem?  Sometimes, workers are asked to disprove employment misconduct or show they were not hurt while working on their house.

When dealing with a family member’s estate, a personal representative might be asked to prove their Grandma’s mind was in the right place when she gave away her stuff.

Other-times, a Veteran might be asked to prove their disability was not exclusive to non military activities.

Regardless of your situation,  I hope this helps your cause.

What you need to know right now

To keep your day moving, here are three terms of art I believe work as one when a person is proving a negative in Minnesota:

  • Identify the Process that took place,
  • Define everybody’s Expectations, and
  • Show why you or your witness is Credible.

If a person is able to put these things together, sometimes they can encourage a judge or hearing officer to conclude the preponderance of evidence was satisfied.

Why a person should NOT prove a negative

The number one reason why a person should not prove a negative is because they want to preserve their rights under the 5th Amendment.  In my practice, I see this when a person is concerned with fraud.

Without going into details, most people have a gut feeling whether this might impact their situation.

Why a person SHOULD prove a negative

Quite frankly, none of us should be forced or compelled to prove a negative.  On the other hand, sometimes attempting to prove it through other means can improve a person’s cause or lead to meeting their big picture goal.

Identifying a Process can help prove a negative

Proving a process is more than an alibi.  I believe a person can prove a negative by identifying their step by step process.  How might this look?

Well, it literally can mean taking a piece of paper and creating a timeline.  Here is an example:

A look at a person’s process as their regular course of action.  In the world of employment, your process will include a detailed outline on what you did and why you did it.  When a person comes to my office, I encourage them to use the following chart when defining their process:

[one-third-first]Time or Date[/one-third-first]
[one-third]I did this because...[/one-third]


[one-third-first]8:30 am[/one-third-first]
[one-third]I punched in[/one-third]
[one-third]To keep track of my time.[/one-third]
[one-third-first]8:39 am[/one-third-first]
[one-third]I reviewed my e-mail[/one-third]
[one-third]Manage my day[/one-third]
[one-third]Took Grandma to the Doctor[/one-third]
[one-third]A monthly appointment[/one-third]
[one-third-first]February 2011[/one-third-first]
[one-third]Sent to Middle East[/one-third]
[one-third]My Platoon was ordered[/one-third]


Of course, your notes will look different.   That said, if a person cannot remember, others may assume an unfavorable event occurred.

Prove a negative by defining everybody’s Expectations

Usually, people tell me they do not know what the other person or entity expected.  Instead, define every person’s expectations as if it were gospel.

Yes, proving a negative is hard because most people are forced to prove why something did not occur.  The best of the best are able to show an event did not occur because those involved did not expect it.

For example, a nurse likely expects their co-workers to communicate verbally versus writing a note because their patient was new and their well-being depended on it.  Maybe an adult child expected their Grandma to show signs of incapacity because Grandma was consistently incoherent in the afternoon.

Unfortunately, every situation is different.

Prove a negative by showing Credibility

Credibility is all about trust.  Why should a judge believe your story?  Having a history of telling the truth or being under oath isn’t good enough.  I believe a person can use evidence to prove a negative by making explicit references to time, dates and describing a situation in detail.

Other times, a person or witness needs to make subtle references to an award, accolades or using past experiences to set a tone.  Even more significant might include a history of making a certain decision based on sound reasoning.

For example, a worker or Veteran might show they would never consume alcohol because they were training for a marathon or divulging credit card statements that fail to identify bar tabs or spending money at a liquor store.

Final Thought

If you are able, please share this post with others.  I acknowledge this might seem ridiculously tedious.  However, attention to detail is important when trying to prove a negative.