Any experienced Union City personal injury lawyer would tell you that injury cases have different consequences depending on the cause of the accident. In some cases, an accident resulting in a personal injury case may lead to a criminal charge against the person who caused the injury. A typical example is when a drunk driver causes a car accident.
The at-fault party will face a civil suit and DUI charge in such a case. A criminal trial does not affect your personal injury case. However, you must seek expert advice from a lawyer. Hiring a personal injury attorney will also help you to make the process of getting compensation quicker.
This article will answer whether criminal trials affect personal injury cases. You will also get to learn about the difference between a criminal prosecution and a personal injury claim.
The Difference Between a Criminal Trial and a Personal Injury Case
A criminal trial and a personal injury case differ in many ways. However, the significant difference between them lies in their burden of proof.
According to Georgia law, the burden of proof in a criminal trial always rests with the prosecutor rather than the defendant. Simply put, it is considered that every defendant in a criminal case is innocent, and the state or municipal prosecutor must establish the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
On the other hand, the burden of proof in civil cases lies with the claimant. They must back their assertions with evidence for them to win.
A criminal conviction is often enough to establish responsibility in a civil lawsuit. However, what if the defendant was found not guilty in the criminal trial? Will it also mean that the injured victim will not get compensation?
A criminal charge typically has no impact on a personal injury case because the mere fact that a crime occurred is considered evidence of negligence against the person accused. Also, the standard of proof is lighter in civil claims; it is based on the balance of possibilities or the preponderance of the evidence.
Therefore, it makes no difference in a personal injury case if the defendant was declared innocent in a criminal trial. This is because even if the case’s facts aren’t enough to convict someone in a criminal trial, they’re sufficient to win a personal injury lawsuit.
What Are the Penalties in a Criminal Trial and a Personal Injury Case?
The judge punishes a person found guilty of a crime in a criminal trial. The penalties may include prison sentences or fines. If the charge is for a DUI, the at-fault driver may lose their driver’s license.
On the other hand, in a personal injury case, the DUI driver will be required to pay compensation for various damages. The settlement covers the following:
- Loss of quality of life
- Cost of personal care
- Emotional suffering and distress
- Mental anguish
- Cost of medical care
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Permanent disability and impairment
- Loss of income and benefits
- Loss of enjoyment of life, etc.
Can a Criminal Trial Help My Personal Injury Case?
Automobile accidents and other personal injury claims are fault-based in Georgia. You must demonstrate that a party’s carelessness, mistake, or wrongdoing was the precise reason behind your injury. Additionally, you must prove that the other person owed you a duty of care and that the violation caused damages.
It is important to remember that the conclusion of a civil case is independent of how a criminal case turns out. Even if criminal charges against the person who injured you are dropped, you might still succeed in getting compensation in your personal injury case.
However, note that in civil cases, the evidence used to convict someone in a criminal trial may be utilized to show fault. Therefore, if the person who caused your accident gets convicted in a criminal trial, it may help prove your personal injury case.
Should You Wait for a Criminal Trial to Conclude or Settle?
In some cases, it may be left to the injured victim to choose between waiting for the conclusion of a criminal trial and taking a settlement. A Union City personal injury lawyer will assess your case and its peculiarities to decide the best option.
However, time is one of the critical factors in deciding whether to settle or wait for a criminal trial outcome. A settlement is your most excellent option if you want to return to work and your everyday life quickly. Also, compensations are usually faster and more affordable than court proceedings.
Secondly, a settlement is a guaranteed award, irrespective of how the criminal case turns out. Finally, you might want to keep your situation confidential. This is especially crucial if your case is high-profile. Making a settlement outside of court can help guarantee that your case’s specifics are kept private.
However, note that once you settle, you cannot request compensation again. Therefore, ensure you carefully evaluate your current and future losses before accepting a settlement offer.
Also, the criminal trial outcome does not affect how much compensation you receive. So, it should not influence whether you want a settlement before the case concludes.
Remember That Time Is Running Out
Now, if you choose to wait for the criminal trial to conclude, remember that time is still running with respect to the statute of limitations. The presence of a criminal trial does not toll the statute of limitations. Therefore, you should continue with the personal injury claim and accept a settlement if your lawyer recommends it.
The only reason to reject a settlement offer is if the money is too small compared to your losses or if you want to file a personal injury lawsuit. Whatever the case, the statute of limitations gives you only two years to file a lawsuit. If you let the time elapse while waiting for a criminal case to conclude, you will lose your ability to recover compensation.
This means that even after the criminal trial, you can no longer seek compensation from the at-fault party. Suppose such a person is found not guilty in criminal court. You will lose your chance to get justice and a financial settlement.
Contact an Experienced Union City Personal Injury Lawyer!
Personal injury cases can become complicated, and injured victims can easily miss out on compensation. Therefore, never commerce the claim process alone.
Gilbert Sperling, III is an experienced Union City personal injury lawyer who will use his expertise in Georgia law and experience to represent your best interests. Schedule a free case review today!