If you are involved in a car accident, the other party might have also committed a crime and the US government might decide to bring charges against them. If the US government is filing charges, you might believe that this means that a civil claim will also be filed against the other motorist. However, a civil claim actually needs to be filed separately. But even if the other party wins their criminal case, they might lose their civil case.
The Burden of Proof
It's much easier for a defendant to win a criminal case than it is to win a civil case because the burden of proof is much higher for a civil case. In criminal cases, the prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, with a civil case, you must only prove that the other party was more likely to be negligent than not.
Why a Lawsuit Might Be Necessary
When the other party is found guilty of a crime, they might face civil or criminal penalties. However, you will not receive compensation for your injuries unless you file and also win a civil case.
Once you have convinced a jury that the defendant had a duty of care, breached their duty of care, and caused you to suffer damages, you will then have to prove damages and may then receive compensation for your damages.
In addition to the criminal penalties, the judge presiding over your civil case may choose to punish the defendant through punitive damages. These damages are meant to be much greater than the compensatory damages and are meant to send a statement. However, you will be paid the punitive damages and these can be used for any purpose.
Negligence Vs. Criminal Liability
What needs to be proven in a criminal case is different from what must be proven in a civil case. For example, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant violated a law during a criminal case. However, for a civil case, no laws necessarily have to be violated. However, any crimes that are committed might be factored into your civil case and used to show negligence.
For example, the other party might have been charged with a DUI after crashing into your car. The fact that they were driving while intoxicated would also demonstrate that they were negligent and caused the car accident. This can lead to the defendant being considered at fault and you might then be entitled to compensation
To learn more, contact a car accident attorney.