Victims of crime often contemplate how they will be made whole. Even though crimes are tried in criminal court, victims and survivors don’t always get compensated by criminal courts. Sure, criminal courts can order a criminal defendant to pay restitution to a victim, but judges don’t always order restitution. Crime victims do not have to rely solely on the criminal justice system to be compensated for their injuries.
Naturally, many types of torts or civil cases flow from criminal conduct. The following are types of lawsuits that crime victims may file:
- Wrongful death
- False Imprisonment
- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
How is a civil case different from a criminal case?
Unlike a criminal case, a civil law suit does not attempt to determine a perpetrator’s guilt or innocence. Instead, civil courts determine whether a person is liable for the injuries caused by his or her action. If a person is found civilly liable, he or she may be ordered to pay monetary damages for (1) the victim’s current injuries and (2) those that can be expected in the future. Such damages may include reimbursement for lost earnings or earning capacity, pain and suffering, and medical expenses. However, a successful civil lawsuit does not guarantee the criminal defendant has the money to pay the awarded damages.
Who pays if a criminal defendant cannot pay?
Victims can get around the risk of a not receiving the money from criminal defendants by bringing civil action against third parties that are likely to have the financial means to pay a damages award. Unlike a criminal defendant who is responsible for injuring a victim, third parties can be responsible if they intentionally or negligently failed to keep people safe from foreseeable injuries. For instance, if a civil court finds that a property manager, business owner, or other commercial entity failed in their duty to protect a victim from criminal conduct, they may have to pay monetary damages to the victim.
The lower burden of proof.
Whether a civil action is brought against the criminal defendant or a third party, victims often have an advantage. For instance, in a criminal action brought by the government, guilt must be determined beyond a reasonable doubt. This means there can be no question in the mind of the jurors that the criminal defendant committed the crime. However, in a civil action, the jury only needs to be convinced the accused more likely than not caused injury to the victim. This lower burden of proof is advantageous to crime victims because their civil case only needs to be proved by a preponderance of the evidence.
Civil legal remedies are important because they provide crime victims with an opportunity to be compensated. Persons charged with crimes need to understand they not only may be forced to pay restitution but could be sued as well.
When a person is charged with a crime and sued for the same actions, critical decisions must be made immediately. A poor decision in the civil lawsuit could sink the criminal case and vice-versa.
Berry Law Firm has helped several clients navigate the treacherous waters between simultaneous civil and criminal lawsuits.