In certain situations, the party at responsibility for an accident may face legal and criminal penalties. A typical example is a drunk driving collision. Any drivers or pedestrians hurt in the collision may pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, who may also face DUI charges.
If you were injured in an accident where the at-fault party is being prosecuted on criminal charges, you might be wondering how this might affect your personal injury case. After reading this article, call The Law Offices of Larry H. Parker at 800-333-0000 for a free legal consultation to discuss some of the questions we receive most frequently.
What if the at-fault party's charges are dropped?
The mere fact that the person who injured you was not charged criminally does not mean that your personal injury claim should also be rejected. In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove that the defendant broke the law, whereas in a civil action, your counsel must show that the defendant's negligence injured you.
These are two separate issues. You may still bring a civil lawsuit if there is insufficient proof to establish criminal charges. Consider the case of Eric Garner: his family received $5.9 million in a wrongful death judgment despite the fact that a grand jury decided not to indict the officer who killed him.
If the defendant is not found guilty, what happens?
If you are found not guilty, your personal injury case may still be upheld. It's crucial to understand that the requirements for proof in criminal and civil cases differ. In a criminal court, a defendant's guilt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. You only need to demonstrate their guilt in civil court by a preponderance of the evidence. Due to this, civil and criminal courts may get different judgments about the same issue.
What if the accused enters a guilty plea or is found guilty of the charge?
A guilty verdict could support your personal injury claim. For instance, it will be easier to demonstrate that a driver was inebriated when your car accident occurred and therefore responsible for your damages if they plead guilty to or are convicted guilty of DUI in criminal court.
What happens if the accused enters a plea of not guilty?
Instead of pleading guilty, a defendant who enters a plea of no contest admits that the facts of the charge against them are accurate, but they are not guilty. This is important because a no contest plea cannot be used against the offender in civil court. The plaintiff will have to call witnesses, such as the arresting officer, or provide evidence, such as the results of a breathalyzer test, in place of relying on a DUI conviction to prove alcohol impairment.
For a free legal consultation if you were hurt in an accident where someone else was at blame, call The Law Offices of Larry H. Parker at 800-333-0000.