There are two broad categories of court cases that exist in the US justice system: criminal cases and civil cases. These two kinds of cases share quite a few characteristics, such as professional legal representation, rules for gathering and presenting evidence and using a jury to render a verdict. However, there are enough differences between civil and criminal cases that they are more or less considered two different legal disciplines. Because civil and criminal trials are different, it is quite possible that there will be both a civil trial and a criminal trial for the same incident.
What may come as a surprise to some people is that two trials for the same driving incident can have different outcomes. It is not out of the realm of possibility that the same defendant could be found innocent in a criminal case but then be found liable in a civil lawsuit for the same conduct. This can happen for a number of reasons, including the fact that the burden of proof is different for criminal and civil cases, that the jury is different, and more.
If you need help with the civil side of your case, call Howe Law’s Tennessee car accident lawyers at (844) 876-4357 and get a free case analysis.
The Difference Between Criminal Court and Civil Court in Tennessee Car Accident Cases
Many people may be surprised to learn that not all legal processes and trials work the same way. Criminal trials and civil trials have a large number of important differences in how they play out, to the point that attorneys will generally choose to hone their craft as a criminal lawyer or a civil one, with a shift in focus being a major career path change.
While there are enough differences between criminal courts and civil courts to make them distinct, there are some processes that are the same for each. Both will have a pre-trial information-gathering phase, lawyers from opposite sides will collaborate in both kinds of lawsuits, and both criminal and civil cases have a trial by jury if it comes to it. The differences are less in the process and more based on what the goals of each trial are.
All in all, the fact that the driver who hit you and was charged in a criminal case can usually help your Knoxville car accident lawyers with your civil case.
Thanks to numerous depictions in television and film, criminal court is likely the legal process that most people are familiar with. In fact, in works of fiction, civil trials are often treated like criminal cases. That being said, there are some important things to remember about criminal cases that are unique to this process and will not show up in a civil trial.
First, the objective of a criminal trial is different than the objective of a civil trial. A criminal trial is meant to punish defendants who are guilty of crimes. A civil trial, on the other hand, can be thought of as primarily meant to help the plaintiff out and get them back on their feet.
This is a key difference: a criminal trial is not concerned with making the victim’s situation better, but rather with locking up a guilty defendant. This is demonstrated by what kinds of verdicts are in a criminal case as opposed to a civil one. Criminal defendants are found “guilty” while civil defendants are found “liable.”
Additionally, the burden of proof in a criminal case is also higher than in a civil one. In criminal trials, the defendant must be found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is a very high standard of proof that is hard to meet.
Unlike criminal cases, civil cases are more concerned with making sure that the plaintiff is adequately compensated for what has been done to them. There is no finding of criminal guilt in a civil trial. Instead, defendants are only found “liable” for the plaintiff’s injuries.
Additionally, in civil cases where there is also a criminal trial, the civil case is often put on hold until the criminal trial finishes. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the plaintiff may be able to use the fact that the defendant was convicted of a crime for doing the same conduct at issue in the civil trial. Second, there may be a greater interest in getting a criminal conviction than a civil one.
The burden of proof is also lower in a civil case. Instead of beyond a reasonable doubt, a defendant in a civil case only needs to be proven liable “by a preponderance of evidence.” This means that it only needs to be more likely than not that the defendant injured the plaintiff. The different burden of proof is one of the reasons that a defendant who is innocent in criminal court may still be liable in a civil case.
What Kinds of Civil Car accident Cases Also Have Criminal Trials?
Not all civil cases will warrant a criminal trial, and not all criminal cases will be able to have a civil trial attached. For example, a murder trial will not likely have a civil trial for damages attached. Conversely, a civil trial for defamation is not likely to have a criminal component.
Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence commonly leads to both a civil and a criminal case. This is because drunk driving is criminalized and often leads to serious charges.
Other Car Accidents
Car accidents in general, frequently include a criminal trial alongside a civil one. Many activities that lead to car accidents, such as speeding, running red lights, or ignoring other traffic rules, are against the law. Accordingly, there is a good chance that a criminal trial will accompany the civil trial for any injuries sustained in the car accident.
Call Our Tennessee Car Accident Lawyers for Help
Howe Law’s Nashville car accident lawyers can help you out with your case when you call (844) 876-4357.