Today, we will talk about the difference between criminal and civil law.
Many people who have been in a car accident, wonder if the other driver was found guilty of drunk driving if they have a slam dunk accident case.
The answer is yes, and no.
The insurance company may agree the other driver was at fault but argue you were not injured or injured that badly. Learn how a guilty verdict in a criminal court case can impact your civil case.
What if the other driver was drunk?
Hey, it’s Drew from Champlain Valley Law. In today’s video, we’re going to talk about the difference between civil cases and criminal cases.
Many of our callers want to know whether the fact that the driver who hit them was charged with operating under the influence or drunk driving is going to make a difference in their personal injury case.
They think, understandably so, that maybe it’ll be easier to prove their case, or they’ll get more money at the end. Well, there are some very important differences between civil cases and criminal cases in the personal injury context.
Let’s talk about some of them now.
What Is Civil Law?
First, it’s important to understand that civil law is about disputes between private parties. It’s the way in which an injured person has the right to recover financially for the harm that was done to them by another person.
On the other hand, criminal cases are brought by the State to punish people for criminal conduct. Each of these kinds of cases has their own what we call burden of proof.
Burden Of Proof In A Personal Injury Case
In a civil case, the burden of proof is what’s called a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, the civil plaintiff, that is, the injured person, has to prove that what happened in their case probably happened. On the other hand, in a criminal case where the defendant may go to jail, the State has to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a much higher standard of proof.
In a civil case, nobody goes to jail, and unless it’s part of a settlement, the wrongdoer has no obligation to do anything other than pay money.
In criminal cases, sometimes as part of restitution in a plea agreement, the defendant may be required to pay a small amount of money to the victim of their crime. But it’s usually never enough to compensate them for the harm that was done.
Is my case easy because the other driver was drunk?
Now, sometimes in a personal injury situation, you might see both a civil case and a criminal case when the wreck was caused by a drunk driver. Now, as the injured person in the civil case, the fact that the driver was intoxicated will likely help you establish that the crash was his or her fault. But don’t be fooled.
In those cases, the insurance company will probably admit that the crash was their driver’s fault. What they will do is fight over how much money they have to pay you.
So the takeaway here is this. Even if the driver who hit you was intoxicated and is involved in a criminal case, it’s unlikely to be of much help for you in your personal injury claim. Because in those cases, the insurance company is going to admit that the wreck was their driver’s fault.
But you’re still going to have to prove how hurt you were and how much money you should be paid for the harm that was done. And while you may see a few dollars in restitution through the criminal case, it’s probably not going to make much of a difference in your life.