Following an incident in which someone gets injured, there is sometimes an intersection of criminal cases and civil cases, and how the cases are resolved can influence each other’s outcome. A person who is injured in an incident that gives rise to criminal charges against the defendant may wonder whether to file the lawsuit before the criminal case is finalized, or after the defendant is convicted.
Generally speaking, criminal cases and civil cases are entirely different from each other in terms of the law, and success at a criminal trial does not necessarily mean that a defendant will not be found liable in a civil case. The most important difference is that there are different standards of proof required in a civil case and a criminal case. In simple terms, the standard of proof is lower in a civil case, in a criminal case however, the state has to prove the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Because of the different proof requirements, it is possible for a person to be found not guilty in a criminal trial and still be found liable in a civil trial. If a person is convicted of a crime connected to a criminal lawsuit, the conviction may be used as proof against that person to prove liability in a civil trial. However, evidence that a person was found liable in a civil suit would be unlikely to be admissible evidence in a criminal trial.
Which case, criminal or civil, should proceed first depends on the facts of each case. Consider that in both criminal and civil cases there is a process called discovery, where each opposing party is required to turn over certain documents and evidence to each other as the case progresses. Documents and evidence disclosed in discovery may make it to trial and be admitted as evidence to be considered by a jury. As this kind of evidence is presented, a person may learn more about the available evidence before filing a civil lawsuit, and the prosecutors can also pick up on some of the evidence they would need to convict the defendant. Therefore, whether to file a civil suit before or after the conclusion of the criminal case may depend on how much evidence the plaintiff has.
There is no requirement that a person filing a civil case should wait until after the resolution of a criminal case in order to file the civil lawsuit. The injured person does not control when a criminal case is filed against the person who caused the injuries, and if the prosecuting authority decides there is insufficient evidence to support a conviction, criminal charges may never be filed. However, if the civil lawsuit is filed first and is successful, it may be used to convince the prosecution that the criminal case may be stronger than initially thought.
Waiting to file until a criminal case is resolved may interfere with the plaintiff’s ability to file. A person who knows he or she wants to file a civil lawsuit cannot wait indefinitely to file the lawsuit. There are statutes of limitations for personal injury claims, and a person who fails to file within that time loses the claim.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
For more information on how you can seek compensation for injuries sustained because of the actions of another, and to make sure you file your claim in time, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C. in Atlanta, Georgia, today