What is the Difference Between Civil and Criminal Law?

On Behalf of | Dec 6, 2018 | Car Accidents

A civil case is a dispute between individuals or companies. A criminal case is a case brought by the state against a person who allegedly broke the law. Car accidents are a good example of when civil and criminal law can both be involved.

What is a civil case?

A civil case arises when a person or company alleges that someone has breached a legal duty owed to the person or entity filing the claim. The person filing the claim has the burden of proof.

In the context of car accidents, typically the person who was injured, or the plaintiff, must prove the defendant or at fault driver acted in a reckless or negligent manner.

In most states, the injured person can make a civil claim against the at fault driver and make claims against insurance companies involved for coverage such as uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage and no-fault benefits.

The injured person can prove damages that include past and future medical bills, past and future wage loss, past and future pain and suffering, and if the at fault driver’s behavior involved criminal violations, then you may be able to recover punitive damages which are meant to punish for the criminal behavior.

Kentucky car accidents must be filed within two years of the accident, or no more than two years past the date of the last no-fault payment. Always consult an experienced car accident lawyer when it comes to the timing for filing a car accident claim. Do not wait until it is too late.

What is a criminal case?

Criminal matters are started by the city or county government either by the Commonwealth Attorney or County Attorney. The defendant is typically indicted, and a case is pursued against the Defendant. In the United States, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Also, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, which is much higher than a civil case.

The victim of the crime is not responsible for prosecuting the case. That is the job of the prosecuting attorney who works for the government. If convicted or the defendant pleads guilty, the punishment can include a fine, reimbursement to the victim, jail, or probation.

Criminal law and car accidents sometimes intersect when the at fault driver has been charged with driving under the influence. There are also circumstances where a defendant can be charged criminally for texting while driving.

A criminal conviction, such as a DUI, can be used as evidence in a civil car accident case to either support a breach of duty or for punitive damages.

If you are injured in a car accident, it is important hat you talk with an experienced Kentucky car accident lawyer to learn your rights. Taking this on by yourself can present problems that often cannot be undone or result in dismissal of your case.

Christopher W. Goode, is a nationally recognized trial attorney and founder of Goode Law Office PLC. He has successfully represented hundreds of car accident victims. He is a past president of the Fayette County Bar Association and is a frequent speaker on legal topics. Chris currently serves as a District Vice President for the Kentucky Justice Association. He can be reached at [email protected] or www.goodelawyers.com