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Differences Between Civil and Criminal Cases

on  Personal Injury

When you’re hurt in an accident, the only thing you care about is recovering and putting your life back together again. If the person or entity who caused the accident was arrested for their actions, you may believe that you will naturally receive compensation and that there is little you need to do. Unfortunately, this is not true. There is a big difference between a civil case and a criminal case. While law enforcement is busy building their criminal case, you need someone on your side who can build a solid civil case to help you collect maximum compensation. 

An experienced Florida personal injury lawyer can review your accident and help you explore all your legal options. Even if the at-fault party escapes criminal conviction, you can still hold them accountable for your pain and suffering. 

Differences between Civil and Criminal Cases

When it comes to the American legal system, there are two main types of cases: civil and criminal. While both are legal proceedings, they are different in many ways. Understanding the differences between these two types of cases is crucial, especially after you suffer an injury in an accident.

Civil Cases vs. Criminal Cases: Overview

Civil cases are claims brought between two or more parties. These parties may be individuals or companies. They include contract disputes, property disputes, personal injury claims, and family law issues. Anytime one person seeks damages from another is a civil case. These cases have one goal: to obtain compensation for the victim. 

On the other hand, only the State or Federal government can bring a criminal case. Prosecutors file criminal charges against someone they believe committed a crime, such as DUI or robbery. They must then build their criminal case to prove the suspect’s guilt. Unlike civil cases, which seek to compensate accident victims, criminal cases aim to punish people for their actions and to protect society as a whole. 

Civil Cases vs. Criminal Cases: Burden of Proof

The burden of proof refers to the responsibility to prove something is true. In both civil and criminal cases, the burden of proof plays a crucial role in determining the case’s outcome. 

The burden of proof is much higher in a criminal case than in a civil case. In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove the suspect’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. To prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt, there can be no logical explanation other than that the Defendant committed the crime. If found guilty, the defendant may face fines, imprisonment, or even the death penalty, depending on the severity of the crime. 

The defense in a criminal case does not have to prove the client’s innocence. It is up to the prosecution to prove they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However, defense teams often try to present evidence to raise doubt in the juror’s minds. If they raise enough doubt, the prosecution has not met its burden of proof, and their client must be acquitted.

In a civil case, the plaintiff must only prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that their version of events is more likely right than wrong. This easier burden of proof, the greater weight of the evidence, means that accident victims can often win their civil cases even when a criminal case is unsuccessful. 

Civil Cases vs. Criminal Cases: Punishment

There are significant differences in punishment between civil and criminal cases. In civil cases, the goal is to compensate the victim for any harm they suffered due to the defendant’s actions. The punishment in a civil case is typically monetary, and the amount awarded is intended to cover any damages the victim sustained. This compensation is often awarded in the form of a settlement, which is a negotiated agreement between the parties involved. The settlement can include a lump sum payment or a structured payment plan.

In criminal cases, the punishment can be much more severe. Criminal punishment seeks to prevent criminal activity while protecting society from dangerous individuals. Punishment can include fines, imprisonment, restitution, probation, or even death in some cases.

The severity of the punishment depends on the type of crime committed and the circumstances surrounding it. For example, DUI offenses often result in fines and loss of driver’s licenses, while more serious crimes like murder could result in a life sentence or even the death penalty.

Is My Civil Case Tied to the Results of The Criminal Case?

Many injured accident victims believe they cannot collect compensation for their losses and win their civil case if the defendant is found “not guilty” or if the defendant’s criminal case is dropped or nolle prossed by the government. This is untrue. 

Take the infamous OJ Simpson case as an example. In 1995, former NFL star, OJ Simpson, was charged with murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman. In the criminal trial, the jury found him “not guilty.” 

In 1997, however, he was found liable for their deaths in a civil trial and was ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages to the victims’ families.

Why was this possible? 

Simpson was able to be acquitted in the criminal trial but found liable in the civil trial due to the difference in the standards of proof required in each trial. In the criminal trial, the prosecution could not prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt because this is a very high burden of proof. In contrast, in the civil trial, the victim’s families only needed to prove that OJ Simpson was most likely responsible for their loved ones’ deaths.

Can I Pursue a Civil Case? 

To determine whether you can pursue a civil case against the person or party who injured you, it is important to speak to an experienced Florida personal injury attorney. Your attorney will review the details surrounding your accident and help you explore all your legal options. Even if there is a criminal case pending, you can still file a personal injury claim

Contact Our Florida Personal Injury Lawyers 

If you or someone you love suffered an injury in Florida, we want to help you through this ordeal. Our Florida personal injury lawyers know the fastest way to get you the compensation you deserve, and we aren’t afraid to go up against large corporations or insurance companies to do it. 

With the right personal injury law firm on your side, you can rest easier knowing that your civil case is proceeding. This allows you to focus on what truly matters after an accident – recovering and rebuilding your life. 
To schedule a free legal consultation to discuss your potential personal injury case, contact Prosper Shaked Accident Injury Attorneys PA at (305) 694-2676. You may also use our online submission form to contact the firm.