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An overview of what differentiates a personal injury lawsuit from a criminal case and how one transforms into another

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There is a thin line between a personal injury case and a criminal case in the USA. A civil case is private in nature that involves two or more individuals, entities, corporations, organizations, and even governmental bodies. However, a criminal case refers to an action that has the intention to harm the other person or the society in general severely. A civil case is the violation of the civil law, whereas a criminal case violates the criminal law of a state or a country. There are cases when a personal injury case actually turns out to be a criminal case. Both the personal injury or tort law and the criminal law intend to identify and punish wrongdoers and take corrective actions against them; some differences make both the law quite apart from each other. Before we understand the different aspects of this dilemma, let’s understand what a civil case and a criminal case is and the underlying differences between the two.

Personal injury case or civil case

A personal injury case refers to an individual, group of individuals, organizations, or governmental bodies inflicting physical, emotional, and mental injury on another injury either due to negligence, breach of promise, and non-performance of duty or clear intentions of harming the concerned individual. The law associated with personal injury cases are similar to civil law, and it requires citizens to abide by the civil code of conduct. The law emphasizes seeking monetary compensation from the ones responsible for the injury or the defendant to compensate the one injured or the plaintiff for the various monetary and non-monetary damages.

In a personal injury case, condonation or forgiveness by the immediate victim can be considered as a defense that can either negate the injury, the conduct of the defendant is not taken as a personal injury, or no one remains to bring a lawsuit in the court of law.

In a personal injury case, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant was responsible for the performance of duty with utmost care, there has been a breach or non-performance of this duty, and there has been direct damage or harm to the plaintiff that can be measured.

In such cases, the injury is inflicted only on an individual or a group of individuals, and not a community at large. Also, the potential for future harm doesn’t generally exist in such cases. Rather the defendant is expected to be more careful in his or her conduct going forward.

Criminal case

Criminal cases are acts of crime or offenses against the state and hence prosecuted by the state and refer to serious and major crimes such as homicide or money laundering. In this case, even if the crime is committed against an individual, it is considered to be a crime against the society on the whole. This is the reason why a prosecutor representing the state files the case and not the immediate victim. These cases involve the arrest of the perpetrator of the crime, unlike a civil case, where compensation for monetary damages is the common course of action.

The burden of proof in criminal cases is pretty stringent. The defendant’s guilt has to be proved by the prosecutor beyond any reasonable doubt. However, the prosecution’s case can be challenged if it is proved that the defendant was trying to defend self, was under duress or entrapment, and is insane or mentally incapable the significance of committed crime.

Condonation is usually not a defense in this case, and if left unchecked, there is a strong potential for future harm.

Can a personal injury transform into a criminal case?

Although the two cases are different, it is important to remember that same deeds can lead to both civil as well as the criminal case. In some cases, a criminal lawsuit is filed and only after a conclusion, a civil lawsuit can be initiated, while the reverse is also very much possible. In the course of the investigation of civil law, if it is discovered that the case is actually a criminal case or that there has been criminal wrongdoing on the part of the defendant, then the lawsuit can change its course of direction. Both civil and criminal case can co-exist. Say if vehicle A hits vehicle B which is driven by a drunk driver, as the vehicle B had stopped at the red signal, then vehicle A has civic liability as it failed to stop on time and vehicle B has criminal liability if the alcohol consumption is found to be beyond permissible limits.

The criminal case reaches verdict quicker than civil cases as the evidence are expected to be more robust, and a civil case might be difficult to prove due to weaker and subtle evidence. Unless the wrongdoing has some hint of an act or intent that tried violating the criminal law, civil law cannot transform into a criminal case.

Every case is unique, and one lawsuit can overlap another. Having a personal injury attorney to guide you through the process of dealing with such situations is highly advisable!