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How Does Restitution in a Criminal Case Affect My Personal Injury Claim in Tennessee?

Criminal law is probably the area of the legal world most people are familiar with. After all, it usually makes the best television. Criminal cases are primarily meant to convict and punish individuals guilty of crimes. What they are not as concerned with is compensating the victim. However, in some instances, part of a convicted defendant’s sentence will include restitution, or court mandated payments to the victim as part of sentencing. Criminal cases also frequently have an attached civil case. Civil cases are different in that they are more concerned with awarding plaintiffs damages. Since you can only be awarded damages once, some plaintiffs may be concerned that restitution in a criminal case may affect their civil claim.

The reality is that restitution is separate from your civil case. You cannot be denied damages just because you were awarded restitution. However, the flip side is that you will likely need to pursue a civil claim to get all the damages you may need. This is because restitution does not cover many things like pain and suffering or mental anguish.

For help with the civil side of your case, call Howe Law’s Tennessee personal injury lawyers at (844) 876-4357 for a free case review.

What is Restitution?

Restitution, generally, means to restore something to what it was before. In Tennessee criminal law, restitution can be part of a defendant’s criminal penalty in addition to fines and jail/prison sentences. However, restitution is more often used as a substitute for those things. While restitution can provide some kind of help to the victim of a crime, it is in no way a substitute for the financial compensation you can get in a civil case with the help of our Nashville personal injury lawyers. In fact, it is very rare for restitution to fully cover the expenses of a serious injury suffered by the victim of a crime.

Differences Between Restitution and Civil Damages in Tennessee

The process by which restitution is awarded is different than how civil damages are awarded. This is largely due to the differences between a civil trial and a criminal one.

Restitution and Criminal Trials

In a criminal trial, the prosecution brings a case against a defendant, and the jury decides whether the defendant is guilty or not. Neither of those parties is necessarily representing you. The defendant, of course, is not, and the prosecution represents the government. Even though the prosecution will likely consult with you frequently, and you will be very involved in the case. However, it is not your case; it is the prosecution’s case.

Damages and Civil Trials

Civil trials, on the other hand, are not as concerned with punishing the defendant as they are with compensating the plaintiff. It is your case through and through. Our Smyrna, TN personal injury lawyers represent you and your interests, not the interests of a state, local, or federal government. You have much more control over what happens in a civil case than in a criminal one. For example, suppose the defendant offers an excellent settlement offer that you want to accept. In a civil trial, you have the option to accept this offer, whereas in a criminal trial, all deals and offers have to come from the prosecution, and they may not be what you have in mind.

Damages a Civil Personal Injury Claim Can Cover that Criminal Restitution Will Not in Tennessee

One of the primary advantages of a civil trial over criminal proceedings is that the process is entirely focused on making the plaintiff “whole” again. This means that the goal is to get you the financial compensation you need after you are injured and not to punish the defendant with no regard to your situation after the trial.

In civil cases, damages can be broadly categorized into economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. Economic damages are somewhat similar to restitution, but the other two kinds of damages are unique to civil cases.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are based on things with calculatable monetary value. They are the most similar to restitution because you can point to a bill or cost to see what these injuries are worth. For example, restitution or economic damages can both cover a hospital stay or other medical expenses.

However, there are some things that economic damages can converge in a civil trial that restitution cannot. For example, suppose you are injured to the extent that you can no longer work. In a civil case, economic damages can include your projected income for the rest of your working life if you had not been injured. Restitution will likely not be able to award anything for that as damages because calculating someone’s projected future earnings will require at least some guesswork.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are not covered by restitution. This category includes items like pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of consortium or companionship. Restitution will not cover these items because their value is esoteric and not based on anything like a bill or receipt. If you want to get compensated for the effects your injuries had on you, you will need to have a civil trial.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are a special kind of damages designed to punish the defendant for especially bad conduct. However, if you have already been awarded restitution from a criminal case, civil courts may be wary of issuing out damages as punishment two times over. That being said, every situation is different, so speak with our lawyers about the particulars of your case.

Talk to Our Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyers Right Away

Howe Law’s Murfreesboro, TN personal injury lawyers can be reached at (844) 876-4357 to discuss your case.

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