The consequences of criminal charges can be far-reaching, especially concerning personal injury cases. When an individual is injured and files a compensation claim, criminal charges can significantly impact the outcome of the case. Today’s blog from our San Diego personal injury lawyers discusses the various effects criminal charges might have on a personal injury case and the options available to individuals who have been charged with a crime.
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What Are the Differences Between a Civil Case & a Criminal Case?
Both criminal and civil cases involve a dispute between two or more parties. However, there are some fundamental differences between the two.
In a criminal case…
- The state or federal government brings the case against an individual or organization for violating a criminal law. The prosecution seeks to punish the defendant with a fine, imprisonment, or both.
- The burden of proof lies on the prosecution. The prosecution must prove that the defendant committed the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt” for the defendant to be found guilty.
- Only the government can file charges against an individual or organization.
In a civil case…
- A private individual or organization, usually referred to as the plaintiff, brings a case against another person or organization, referred to as the defendant. The goal of a civil case is usually to obtain financial compensation.
- The burden of proof lies on the plaintiff. The plaintiff must prove their claim by a preponderance of evidence, which means that it must be more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for the plaintiff’s harm.
- Anyone can file charges against another person or organization.
These are the primary differences between civil and criminal cases.
How Do Criminal Charges Affect a Personal Injury Case?
When an individual is involved in an accident that results in personal injury, the victim has the right to file a civil claim against the negligent party. This allows them to seek financial compensation for the damages and suffering caused by the accident.
However, if criminal charges are brought against the negligent party, it can significantly impact the outcome of a civil personal injury case. Understanding how criminal charges affect personal injury cases is critical to ensure that victims receive the compensation they deserve.
Criminal charges and civil claims are two different types of cases. In a criminal case, the state prosecutes an individual for violating a law. On the other hand, civil cases involve individuals, organizations, or corporations suing each other for wrongs or disputes between them.
The Outcome of Criminal Proceedings on Personal Injury Cases
When a person is charged with a crime in relation to a personal injury, such as assault or vehicular homicide, the outcome of the criminal proceedings will affect the civil case. For example, if the defendant is found guilty of a crime, this may increase the chances of a successful personal injury claim.
If a defendant is found not guilty, it could limit or even negate the victim’s ability to recover financial compensation. In some cases, criminal charges may be dropped in favor of a plea deal. A plea deal involves admitting guilt to a lesser crime to avoid a more serious charge. This can also impact the outcome of a personal injury case.
Note that different crimes can affect a personal injury case. For example, if an individual was driving under the influence (DUI) and caused an accident, they may be held liable for any injuries caused. Other crimes affecting personal injury cases include negligence, recklessness, and intentional harm.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help individuals navigate the legal process and protect their rights during this difficult time.
The Crimes That May Affect a Personal Injury Claim
Regarding criminal charges and personal injury cases, several crimes may impact the outcome of a personal injury case.
Some of these crimes include:
- Negligent Driving: Negligent driving (or distracted driving) is a crime where the accused fails to use reasonable care when operating a motor vehicle. This could include failing to follow traffic laws, speeding, or driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Negligent driving is used as evidence of negligence in a personal injury case if the accused was responsible for causing an accident resulting in an injury.
- Assault: Assault is a crime involving intentionally causing physical harm to another person. If a defendant is convicted of assault and battery, they may be held responsible for damages from an injury caused by the assault.
- Reckless Endangerment: Reckless endangerment is a crime where a person acts with conscious disregard for the safety of others, creating a risk of serious injury or death. Reckless endangerment might be used as evidence of negligence in a personal injury case if the accused was responsible for causing an accident resulting in an injury.
- Criminal Negligence: In a criminal negligence crime, the accused behaves so carelessly or irresponsibly that it results in serious harm or death. If the defendant is convicted of criminal negligence, they may be held responsible for damages stemming from an injury caused by their negligence.
By understanding the different crimes that may affect a personal injury case, individuals can better understand how criminal charges play a role in their own claims. Depending on the circumstances, an attorney may be able to help individuals protect their rights and pursue compensation for any injuries suffered due to another person’s negligence or recklessness.
What If the Defendant Is Found Guilty?
When a defendant is found guilty of a criminal charge, it can significantly impact a personal injury claim. Generally, if the defendant is found guilty, the civil court can find that the defendant acted with gross negligence.
Gross negligence means that the defendant acted recklessly or carelessly and caused the accident resulting in injuries. This could increase the damages awarded to the plaintiff in the case.
On the other hand, if the defendant is found guilty of a crime such as drunk driving, the plaintiff may bring a claim for punitive damages. Punitive damages punish the defendant for their conduct and can significantly increase the total damages awarded in a personal injury case.
Remember that criminal convictions are not required for a successful personal injury claim. However, when the defendant is found guilty, it can be used as evidence of gross negligence and may even result in more damages being awarded.
What If the Defendant Is Found Not Guilty?
If a defendant is found not guilty in a criminal case, it does not necessarily mean a plaintiff in a personal injury case cannot receive compensation for their injuries. While criminal charges may influence the outcome of a personal injury case, they are two separate proceedings that do not depend on each other.
In a criminal case, the defendant must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This standard is much higher than in a civil case, requiring only a preponderance of evidence or more than a 50% chance that the defendant is liable. Any doubt in the jury’s mind will result in an acquittal.
Still, if a defendant is acquitted of criminal charges, it does not mean the plaintiff cannot pursue a personal injury claim against them.
Proving Liability With a Not-Guilty Defendant
In personal injury cases, evidence can still be used to prove liability even if the defendant is not guilty of criminal charges. It is important for plaintiffs to thoroughly investigate their claim and gather all available evidence to make a strong case for damages.
The burden of proof in civil cases is not as high as in criminal cases; therefore, plaintiffs can still obtain a favorable outcome if the defendant is not found guilty of criminal charges. Even if a defendant is found not guilty of criminal charges, there may still be enough evidence to prove liability in a civil case.
Win Your San Diego Personal Injury Case With Help from HHJ Trial Attorneys
Whether criminal charges are involved or not, your personal injury case is best won with help from professional and experienced personal injury attorneys in San Diego.