4 Ways A Criminal Trial Affects Your Personal Injury Case
Most personal injury cases involve some kind of negligence. But what if the same incident includes something that rises to the level of a criminal charge? It could be anything from criminal negligence to outright intentional harm. How does a criminal case affect your personal injury case? Here are a few of the most common effects you can see, no matter whether it's your criminal trial or the other party's.
1. Delays in Civil Trials
If a person faces both a criminal trial and a civil trial over the same incident, the criminal trial is likely to go ahead first. Why? First, their civil opponent may want to see the outcome of the criminal trial before wading into the case. However, more importantly, the defendant has rights that must not be violated. For instance, testifying in a civil trial might violate their right against self-incrimination.
2. Differing Burdens of Proof
The burden of proof refers to the level of certainty that the plaintiff or prosecution must reach to prove that a defendant committed the act. In criminal court, this usually means that the evidence must counteract the reasonable doubts of the jury. This is a different standard from civil trials, which usually stipulate that there must be "clear and convincing arguments," a "preponderance of evidence," or that something is "more likely than not." So a person could win a criminal trial but still be held civilly liable.
3. Evidence and Discovery
The criminal trial can help illuminate the evidence and lines of reasoning needed for the civil trial. Prosecutors will do some of the legwork for the personal injury plaintiff. However, if the civil trial jumps the gun, there could be important elements missed by one side or the other.
4. Guilty and No Contest Pleas
Many criminal cases are not actually ended by a judgment in court. In fact, the vast majority are completed through a plea agreement between the defendant and prosecutors. Many plea agreements offer the defendant the chance to plead guilty or no contest in return for reductions in penalties. A guilty plea can help their civil trial opponent, but a no-contest plea doesn't boost the opponent's case.
Where to Start
Can you face both a civil and criminal trial for an accident or incident? Does the person you want to sue for personal injury face a criminal charge themselves? Whatever side of the court you're on, begin by meeting with a personal injury lawyer in your state. They will work with you to build the best civil case no matter what the criminal outcome is.