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Civil and criminal cases: mutually exclusive?

The legal system is fairly interconnected, but there are some key differences that can be pivotal to understand. This is especially true for individuals who have been injured in a car accident, and having a full understanding of the law will allow them to better act on their rights. Failing to understand the law could result in missed opportunities to recover much needed compensation for damages suffered in an accident.

One common misconception is that criminal and civil cases are connected in a way that, if criminal charges are not brought, then a civil lawsuit cannot be filed. While criminal actions are brought by the government on behalf of the people, a civil lawsuit is filed by an individual, accusing the defendant of breaching some sort of duty owed to the plaintiff. Therefore, regardless of whether criminal charges are sought in a drunk driving accident, for example, a victim who suffered injuries in the accident could certainly still file a civil lawsuit.

Another important distinction between civil and criminal cases is the burden of proof. In order for prosecutors to obtain a criminal conviction, they must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, on the other hand, the plaintiff must only prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence. This hurdle is quite a bit lower than guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, as a preponderance of the evidence is satisfied if the defendant is found to be 51 percent at fault.

Though this issue is crucial to understanding the civil law system, it doesn't even scratch the surface of the multitude of legal issues that can confront a car accident victim. Therefore, those who have suffered serious injuries caused by a negligent driver may want to seek assistance from a legal professional.

Source: FindLaw, "Criminal Cases vs. Criminal Cases - Key Differences," accessed on April 8, 2016

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