Can Personal Injury Claims Result In Criminal Charges?
If you are injured by someone else in the state of Florida, either accidentally or intentionally, you’re entitled by Florida law to full compensation for your medical costs, lost wages, and more.
If you are not offered a fair and just compensation amount immediately, you can file a personal injury lawsuit, and with the help of a Port St. Lucie personal injury attorney, you may seek compensation from the liable party in civil court – in a personal injury trial.
Don’t be panicked or intimidated into accepting a quick settlement. The amount offered will likely be far less than you actually need, and you’ll be waiving your right to take future legal action or receive additional compensation. Let your attorney negotiate for a better settlement.
WHEN CAN A PERSONAL INJURY CASE BECOME A CRIMINAL CASE?
Some of the incidents that give rise to personal injury cases may also trigger criminal charges for the defendant. Keep reading to learn how two cases – civil and criminal – based on the same event can impact each other – and how that, in turn, can impact the injured victim of negligence.
Generally speaking, the two court systems do not cross one another, and they operate separately. If you are injured when you slip on a wet floor in a supermarket, or if you trip on the cracked pavement on someone’s sidewalk or parking lot, it is probably not a criminal matter.
But if you are injured in a traffic crash with an intoxicated driver, for example, you can sue for your personal injury or injuries, and the driver will also be criminally prosecuted for driving under the influence.
CAN THE SAME INCIDENT RESULT IN TWO DIFFERENT VERDICTS?
Probably the most famous civil and criminal defendant was O.J. Simpson. You may remember that while he was found not guilty of murder in a criminal trial, he was later found liable for wrongful death in a civil trial, and he was ordered to pay compensation to one victim’s family.
How can a personal injury trial in civil court affect a criminal trial – and vice-versa? If the criminal trial precedes the civil trial, the criminal trial might provide much of the evidence that a plaintiff (the injury victim who is pursuing compensation) may find helpful.
For example, if you are injured by an impaired driver, and if that driver is convicted of DUI, the conviction considerably strengthens your personal injury case. The driver’s negligence has already been proven in criminal court, so your civil lawsuit will almost certainly prevail.
IF SOMEONE INJURES YOU, HOW CAN YOU OBTAIN COMPENSATION?
In any situation where another person injures you, accidentally or intentionally, and you sustain economic damages – medical bills and lost wages – you must file a personal injury claim to obtain compensation for your losses.
A criminal trial may convict and punish the individual who injured you, but you will not be compensated as the result of a criminal trial.
Just as a criminal trial can provide the evidence you need to prevail with a personal injury lawsuit, if a personal injury trial takes place first, it may give the state the evidence it needs to file criminal charges.
HOW CAN CRIMINAL TRIALS IMPACT CIVIL TRIALS – AND VICE-VERSA?
However, in most of these situations, it’s the criminal prosecution that takes place first. Criminal defendants have the right to a “speedy” trial. Although the civil and criminal courts do not “cross over,” both trials may make use of the same details and evidence.
If the state files charges and prosecutes a defendant for criminal assault, the defendant may not be sued in civil court for injuries arising from the same assault until the criminal case has concluded.
CAN TWO TRIALS BE CONDUCTED SIMULTANEOUSLY?
If a personal injury trial is already in progress when a criminal trial commences, the civil case is usually “stayed” (that is, paused) until the criminal trial has concluded.
If no criminal charges against a personal injury defendant are filed initially, evidence of criminality may emerge during the personal injury discovery process. Discovery is the pre-trial process of uncovering, compiling, and sharing evidence with the other side in the case.
The conclusion of a civil case and a criminal case may not be the same conclusion. That’s what happened with O.J. Simpson, who received a not guilty verdict but was later deemed “liable” for wrongful death.
The reverse situation can also happen. A defendant may be found guilty in criminal court, but in a civil trial arising from the same incident, the plaintiff/injury victim may fail to make the case that he or she should be awarded damages.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER?
Here in Florida, if you are injured by another person either accidentally or intentionally, the most important thing to remember is that you should discuss the case at once with an experienced Port St. Lucie personal injury attorney.
In some cases – particularly DUI cases – the person who injured you might be arrested at the scene of the incident. In other cases, your personal injury attorney may recommend involving the police.
Especially in Florida, for example, cases of nursing home abuse sometimes become criminal cases as the extent of the abuse is revealed through discovery and a personal injury trial.
HOW WILL A FLORIDA PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER HELP YOU?
If you are injured because of another person’s negligent or intentional action – or inaction – your personal injury lawyer will investigate the incident, review your medical records, question witnesses, gather evidence, and advocate aggressively for the compensation that should be yours.
See an injury attorney immediately after you’ve been treated by a medical professional. The state of Florida has a four-year statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit, but you cannot wait four years and then try to take legal action at the last minute.
You need to put an injury lawyer on your case at once – while the evidence is fresh and while the memories of the witnesses are clear. Nothing good or helpful can come from procrastinating.
WHAT WILL IT COST TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION?
It doesn’t cost anything to learn more about how the law applies to your case or to begin your pursuit of justice. Florida’s personal injury lawyers offer a free, no-obligation first legal consultation to the injured victims of negligence.
Moreover, if you and your attorney agree to move forward with legal action, you’ll pay no attorney fees until – and unless – your attorney recovers compensation on your behalf.
If you are injured by another person’s negligence, an attorney’s help is your right. Make the call as quickly as possible.