When a person makes a negligent decision and harms someone else, they can be held accountable for their actions. In the majority of cases, a personal injury claim can be filed and the victim can seek compensation. In some cases, criminal charges may apply – like in the event of a drunk driver causes a traffic accident. Understanding deciding how to file can be overwhelming, especially when you’re recovering from injuries. We can help you understand your options, so you can make the best decision for you and your family.
The Difference Between a Civil Case and a Criminal Case
If you’ve been injured by someone who is facing criminal charges, you’re likely wondering how their charges will impact your personal injury claim. In order to understand the effects, it’s important to understand the difference between a civil case and a criminal case.
Burden of Proof
Burden of proof refers to the proof needed to win a case. Typically, it’s easier to win a civil case than a criminal case. This is because a civil case only require a preponderance of evidence. This means that the plaintiff has to prove it’s more likely than not that the defendant caused their injuries. With a criminal case, however, the proof has to be beyond a reasonable doubt.
In some cases, a person who is being tried civilly and criminally may be found not guilty of a crime, but they can still be held responsible with the civil case. While the negligent party won’t be convicted, the victim will still have the opportunity to recover damages.
As far as damages and total compensation goes, there’s generally more damages available in a personal injury civil case. The victim can seek recovery for monetary damages like medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage costs, cost of future care, and more. If the guilty party is convicted of the crime, the victim will be eligible for restitution. While still significant, there are fewer damages covered by this type of reward.
Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations refers to the time period in which a person can bring a lawsuit forward. If the deadline is missed, they’ll render themselves ineligible for compensation. These limits vary depending on the type of case. Maryland has different limits for different personal injury cases, in addition to deadlines for criminal cases.
For the majority of civil cases, which includes areas of litigation like personal injury, product liability, wrongful death, and medical malpractice, victims have three years to file a claim. With criminal cases, however, there is no statute of limitations for the majority of crimes, including some misdemeanors.
Criminal Violations and Civil Liability in Maryland
It’s possible for someone to be found guilty of a crime without being civilly liable for an accident. While uncommon, this can happen in accidents involving multiple parties. If, for example, a vehicle strikes the car in front of them at a red light because the tractor-trailer behind them failed to stop in time, it’s likely the truck driver will be found civilly liable for the accident.
But, if the police arrive to take an official report and they discover the driver of the middle vehicle is intoxicated, that person could be subjected to sobriety tests and found to be over the legal limit. While the driver is not civilly liable for the accident, they can be charged with criminal liability.
If a criminal case is pursued, the outcome could have an impact on your case. If the defendant pleads or is found guilty, that can support a personal injury claim. If they plead no contest, which means they are admitting the facts of the charge are true but they are not guilty, additional evidence will be needed to prove guilt.
Personal injury claims can be complex, but adding in criminal charges can make things that much more difficult. If you find yourself in a situation like that, you’ll need the help of an experienced attorney. When you work with a law firm, your legal representative will be able to ensure you receive the compensation you need to recover, regardless of how complicated the situation is.
The lawyers at Belsky & Horowitz, LLC are prepared to guide you through the litigation process, so you can get the compensation you need to heal physically, mentally, and financially from your accident. We recognize that the situation may feel even more complicated if criminal charges are involved, but we’ll make sure you understand everything that’s happening. To learn more about criminal charges and their effects on personal injury claims or to speak with an attorney about an accident, contact us today.