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When Legal Worlds Collide: The Intersection of Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Law

 Although we would love to say this is not the case, the world can be a dangerous place. Not only do accidents happen on a daily basis, but there are also individuals who can behave carelessly or maliciously, putting others in harm’s way. 

When you get hurt because of the actions of another person, you have the right to file a personal injury claim against them. If the person committed a crime when they hurt you, then they could be prosecuted in a criminal proceeding. 

The question that many injured victims have is “What is the difference between a personal injury claim and a criminal trial?”. By the end of this article, you will understand the differences between these two processes and how they intersect. 

What is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Personal injury is a field of law that exists to help victims overcome the challenges they face after serious injuries. For your case to be successful, you must be able to prove that someone else’s negligence caused the incident that resulted in your injuries. As a result of those injuries, you must have suffered from legal damages, which can include lost wages, medical bills, physical pain, emotional suffering, and even loss of quality of life. Compensation can be won from the defendant or their insurance company to cover the cost of those damages. Negligence is defined differently from state to state. 

  • A Tennessee personal injury lawyer faces a modified comparative negligence statute

  • In New York, injury lawyers help clients navigate pure comparative negligence

  • South Dakota is the lone state with a statute known as slight vs gross negligence

  • Contributory negligence is a statute in some states like North Carolina that makes it harder for claimants to recover compensation

What is a Criminal Proceeding?

A criminal trial is designed to punish the offender for a criminal act. Although the victim will play a role in the trial, serving as a witness and giving testimony, there is no reward offered to the victim other than justice for the defendant who committed the crime. The burden of proof is much stronger in a criminal proceeding, as defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty. If the defendant is convicted, then they will carry out their sentence as administered by the judge.

Can Both Legal Processes Occur For the Same Case?

The defendant in a case could face both civil and criminal actions against them. The primary reason for this is that victims have the right to see the offender face justice through sentencing, but that often does not help them overcome the struggles caused by the crime. If you were seriously hurt because someone was driving very recklessly, then their negligent driving can lead to criminal charges as well. However, with a personal injury lawsuit on top of the criminal trial, you would have the chance to pursue financial compensation to help pay for medical bills, lost income, property damage, and even non-economic damages like emotional suffering or physical pain. For this reason, it is possible for both an injury case and a criminal trial to occur simultaneously. 

What Does it Take to Win?

Winning a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant and having a criminal trial end in conviction are two very different outcomes. The primary difference is in the burden of proof. For a personal injury lawsuit, the threshold for a successful claim is usually a preponderance of evidence. This means that it is more likely than not that the actions of the defendant caused the injuries of the claimant and the ensuing damages. 

In a criminal trial, the evidence must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime. This is a much higher threshold because the stakes are higher. In both types of cases, winning means collecting enough solid evidence to meet those thresholds. This is one of the main reasons why hiring a good lawyer makes sense in both situations. You need someone with legal expertise, an understanding of your rights, and experience in court on your side to have a greater chance of success, whether you are seeking to punish the offender or recover compensation for damages. 

Know the Differences and Similarities Between Personal Injury Claims and Criminal Trials

Although we wish the world was a safer place, reality can be disappointing. If you get hurt because of the actions of another person, a personal injury case could be viable to help you secure your financial future. If that person’s actions broke state or federal laws, then a criminal proceeding can end with sentencing to ensure they are punished. If you think you are facing this type of scenario from a recent incident, your best bet is to speak to a personal injury lawyer to find out what your options are.

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