In the legal sphere, cases are generally grouped into one of two categories: civil and criminal. In civil cases, the people who were harmed by the actions of a negligent party can sue that party, and if successful, can recover compensation for the financial and emotional effects of the incident in question. Criminal cases involve instances of a person (or a group of people) breaking the law, and facing the possibility of financial penalties or jail time for their offenses. The main difference between civil and criminal cases are that people charged with a crime can receive a prison sentence, and the results of a criminal case are meant as a punishment whereas civil results are (usually) about paying damages to victims.
The lines between civil litigation and criminal legal action are not always clear cut. In some cases, the person who committed the offense can be charged for a crime, but may be liable for civil damages to compensate victims as well.
The Intersection of Criminal and Civil Litigation
Car accidents are a prime example of cases where civil and criminal litigation can meet. In a typical car accident case, this may include traffic tickets if a violation caused the collision. When the cause of the collision was a more severe offense such as reckless, distracted, or drunk driving, the criminal implications of the accident can be serious.
What are Punitive Damages?
Although the results of civil cases most often exclude penalties, there is a possibility of punitive damages in some cases. Punitive damages differ from typical civil damages because they are specifically intended as a type of consequence, rather than a payment of losses. Punitive damages are not especially common in personal injury cases — they are usually reserved for cases involving gross negligence or misconduct.
The circumstances of a case will affect whether or not a personal injury claim on top of criminal charges is viable. To discuss your options following an injury, contact May, Rammell & Wells.Our attorneys are available via phone or through our contact form.