Brooklyn Car Accident Lawyer Compares Civil and Criminal Cases
When traffic accidents lead to criminal charges, it is always important to understand that a criminal case and a civil case are totally separate matters explains Arkady Frekhtman, a Brooklyn car accident lawyer at Frekhtman & Associates. A motorist convicted of certain criminal charges may face jail time, but a personal injury case in civil court focuses only on monetary compensation.
If an individual is injured or killed in a traffic accident because of the negligent conduct of another party, it is common to seek compensation by filing a civil lawsuit. In some cases, the negligent party may also face criminal charges such as DWI or reckless driving. When this occurs, an outcome in criminal court may impact the civil proceedings in a way that is beneficial to the injured party.
Potential Impact of Criminal Charges
For example, a criminal charge of driving while under the influence (DWI) may help to prove liability in a civil lawsuit. This is especially true because criminal convictions require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, a higher standard of proof than is required in civil cases. In civil litigation, cases are decided based upon a preponderance of the evidence. This means that the judge or jury need only determine that it is more likely than not that the plaintiff’s claims are true.
When an insurance company is faced with a situation where a person it insures faces criminal charges, it may be more agreeable to an out-of-court settlement. However, it is always important to remember that every case is unique.
Once the other party is convicted of a crime related to a traffic accident, this conviction may be admitted into evidence in the civil suit seeking monetary damages. Also, when criminal charges are contested in a trial, an attorney representing a client in a personal injury civil claim may find that the criminal defense attorney for the accused is forced to reveal certain defense strategies. Information gained from the criminal trial may help a personal injury attorney in civil litigation seeking compensation for pain, suffering and other losses/expenses.
When a Defendant is Found Not Guilty
Finally, it is often possible to recover monetary damages even when the person who allegedly caused the accident is found not guilty in a criminal trial. Again, this is possible because the standard of proof in a criminal trial is higher than in a civil proceeding.
In a criminal trial, a defendant must be found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Conversely, the accused must only succeed in establishing reasonable doubt as to his/her guilt. However, in a personal injury case heard in a civil court, an injured party need only prove that a “preponderance of the evidence” exist to prove that the defendant was negligent in causing an accident.
Again, the standard is substantially lower in a civil case than in a criminal trial. Therefore, a motorist accused of causing a crash might be exonerated in criminal court, but an injured victim might still prevail in civil court.
In some personal injury cases, the other side may claim the injured victim was at fault to some degree. Therefore, the injured party may still be found partially liable for the accident, and the injury award may be reduced by the percentage of fault determined by a judge or jury. Laws vary from state to state, so it may be helpful to seek assistance from an attorney familiar with the laws in your state.
Whether or not other parties face criminal charges, our clients rely on our firm to aggressively fight to secure the full compensation they deserve under the law. We offer an initial consultation at no cost to you. To learn more, please contact us.