Civil vs. Criminal Court: What's the Difference?

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When you’ve been injured because of someone else’s actions, you will likely want to seek justice. However, you might not be sure just how to go about doing that. Will you bring the at-fault party to civil court, or will there be criminal charges brought against them?

Below, we discuss the many differences between civil court and criminal court and what you can expect when you’re ready to obtain the justice you’re entitled to after an injury.

Who Represents the Interests of the Victim?

Whenever there is an incident of some kind and someone suffers a serious injury, those who are responsible for causing the injury should be held accountable for their negligence. One significant difference between civil claims and criminal cases is who represents the interests of the victim.

In a civil lawsuit, it is up to you as the victim to work with an attorney who can bring a personal injury claim against the negligent party. This will enable you to obtain compensation for your losses. In a criminal case, the prosecution may bring charges against the person who harmed you—if that harm was the result of some kind of criminal action.

The Burden of Proof

The burden of proof, or what is needed for the court to render a “guilty” verdict, is different in civil and criminal cases.

In a civil lawsuit, the attorney representing your interests will need to prove based on a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant is at fault for your damages. Essentially, this means that evidence needs to demonstrate that the defendant is more likely than not at fault for your injuries.

This is very different from a criminal trial, in which the prosecutor needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” means that there is no other reasonable explanation for the events that transpired—other than the guilt of the defendant.

What a Guilty Verdict Means

In a criminal case, a guilty verdict means that the defendant is going to be penalized for their actions. The penalties can vary widely, depending on the type of crime the defendant has been convicted of. Possible penalties include fines, probation, community service, drug or alcohol rehabilitation courses, other forms of counseling, jail time, or even imprisonment.

However, in a civil lawsuit, when the defendant is found liable for your losses, this means that they’ll be responsible for compensating you for the damages you endured. Such damages could include the following:

  • The loss of enjoyment of life
  • Medical expenses
  • The loss of companionship and love
  • The effects of disfigurement or scarring
  • Your lost wages
  • The loss of household services
  • The damage to your future potential earnings
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

It’s also worth noting that you can bring a civil lawsuit against the liable party in addition to any criminal charges they might be facing. No matter what the verdict is in criminal court, pursuing the compensation you’re entitled in civil court is an option if someone else caused your injuries through negligence.

Talk to a Lakeland Personal Injury Lawyer

When you’ve suffered serious injuries in an accident caused by the negligence of someone else and you aren’t sure where to turn, reach out to a qualified Lakeland personal injury lawyer at Lopez & Humphries, PA.

We proudly offer potential clients a free consultation, during which we can discuss the details of your case. You can schedule your consultation today by calling our office at 863-709-8500 or by completing the convenient contact form we’ve included below.