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When Personal Injury Lawsuits and Criminal Charges Collide

July 27, 2005

When serious injury accidents occur, law enforcement is on the lookout for criminal activity and cause. They are trying to find out if someone has perpetrated a crime that caused the accident to happen. After police officers investigate the accident that caused your injuries, they may charge the you for crimes committed before, during, and/or after.

If you were charged with a criminal offense after an accident, you may be wondering whether or not this will have an effect on your personal injury claim. If you are in this position, you’ll need to hire an expert personal injury attorney ( – Recommended) to help you limit the damage these charges could have on your personal injury case. The following are the facts you ought to be aware of if a criminal charge was issued at the scene.

How do Personal Injury and Criminal Cases Differ

Criminal charges are issued when a person violates a particular states’ laws. Instances of criminal chargese that could come up in relation to a personal injury court case can include driving while drunk, assault and battery, reckless driver or fleeing from the scene. The state will charge the person responsible via the county district attorney or it may do so via a less significant unit of government such as the city attorney. With criminal cases, it depends on what the district attorney wants to do as to if charges will be filed. A criminal case’s purpose is punishing the offender, as well as appropriate rehabilitation and protecting the community.

A personal injury case is an example of a breach of the state’s civil law. This violation could be dependent on written laws as well as common law. The civil case’s objective is to financially compensate the accident victim for any losses.

Case Burden of Proof Differs

The case burden of proof is the extent of any proof you supply to try to win the lawsuit. For instance, when it comes to criminal cases, this burden of proof must be beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the state has to prove their premise of the lawsuit is correct beyond a reasonable doubt.

When it comes to a civil personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff has to prove the other person is liable for any injuries they received via a majority of the evidence provided. Which means they must prove it is more probable than not that the other person was the cause of any injuries which occurred.

The disparity in the burden of proof implies it’s simpler to win civil cases when compared to criminal cases. Even if a defendant is found not guilty based on a criminal prosecution, there could still be a chance to come out on top with a civil case. An example of this is with the OJ Simpson murder trial. He came out the victor in the criminal lawsuit, however, he didn’t win his civil case. So, it is quite possible someone could be declared not guilty in their criminal case, yet found liable in a civil lawsuit for the damages of the victim. If the relevant state eventually decides noot to charge the person, or even if a criminal court case does not end up convicting them, it is still likely someone can get damages via a civil court case.

More Damages Can Be Asked For During Personal Injury Civil Cases

If someone is convicted of a criminal matter, the crime victim has a right to recoup financial reimbursement for several kinds of monetary losses. Payments paid by a defendant are known as restitution. This payment covers monetary losses such as any medical bills, as well as the cost of any type of psychological treatments, and reimbursement for the fair value of the damaged property.

With a civil injury lawsuit, the victim can receive more damages. Including all the possible restitution that can be paid out during a criminal case, if there’s an injury lawsuit, a victim may ask for payment for any emotional distress, as well as their physical suffering, and replacement of related household services, etc. It is absolutely crucial not to presume a criminal proceeding will end up providing the exact same monetary compensation a victim could get if they proceed with a personal injury court case.

Statute of Limitations Differences

When the state must bring criminal charges against someone it often differs from when you must bring civil charges against someone. Normally there’s 2 years for bringing personal injury claims against someone. But the state might only have 1 year for bringing charges such as a misdemeanor against someone.

Is it possible to have both a civil case and a criminal case?

Just because a state brings criminal charges against someone, it does not mean the victim can’t bring an injury case against them. Normally, criminal cases take less time to resolve than a personal injury case does.

Should a defendant make a statement in a criminal case, this statement can be used against them via a civil court trial. Should a defendant want to plead guilty in a criminal court case but not admit they are liable in a civil case, they may be allowed to plead no contest by the state instead of pleading guilty. No contest means the same as if they plead guilty during a criminal court case, however, a defendant is not required to bring an admission of guilt which would carry over to a civil court case.

Criminal Violations Do Not Automatically Mean There is Civil Responsibility

It is possible a person could be guilty of perpetrating a crime and not be liable at a civil court case for an accident. For instance, if the accident happened after someone driving a passenger vehicle stopped for a stop sign. However, a person driving a truck does not stop at the stop sign. If that truck driver hits the passenger vehicl, the law responds to the accident.

The peace officer cites the driver of the truck because they failed to stop in time before hitting the passenger vehicle. The passenger vehicle driver did not violate any kind of traffic law, nor did they act in a negligent fashion. Nevertheless, throughout the course of the investigation, if the peace officer notices the driver of the passenger vehicle smells like they’ve been drinking alcohol, they will initiaten a field sobriety test, as well as do a chemical test. Then if results reveal the passenger vehicle driver is found to have ingested more than the state’s legal consumption limit, that driver has a criminal liability for that offense.

Though that driver might have been negligent due to driving while drunk, that was not what caused his accident. Instead, the driver of the truck triggered the accident because he failed to stop in time when the passenger vehicle was at the stop sign in front of him. So, that makes the truck driver civilly responsible and the passenger vehicle driver is criminally responsible.

Would a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Obtain Compensation?

If someone is injured via a personal injury accident, it is vital not to presume it can be resolved via a criminal lawsuit. A skilled injury lawyer could assist you in evaluating the case to see if a criminal issue might have an effect on your personal injury allegation.

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About the Author

At the Law Offices of Top Gun DUI Defense Attorney Myles L. Berman, our experienced team of DUI / Drunk Driving defense lawyers are dedicated to aggressively defending people arrested for DUI.