If you’ve been injured in an accident due to the fault of another, then you may be entitled to damages under Alabama law. It’s worth noting, however, that — in some cases — there may be a parallel criminal proceeding alongside your civil lawsuit. This can be concerning for first-time injury plaintiffs who are not quite sure how the two proceedings are interlinked.
While we do not handle the criminal aspects of injury cases, the information below is provided to assist you with a better understanding of the legal process when criminal aspects are involved in personal injury cases. So, how will the criminal proceeding impact your civil lawsuit? Let’s take a closer look.
As a general rule, the criminal and civil proceedings are separate and distinct. Each should not influence the outcome of the other. That being said, however, certain conclusions reached in the criminal case may — depending on evidentiary rules and limitations — be introduced in your civil case, giving you a “leg up” against the defendant.
To understand, we will need to examine the standard of proof first.
In a criminal proceeding, the standard of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is represented mathematically by a 99 percent likelihood of guilt.
By contrast, in a civil proceeding, the standard of proof is “preponderance of the evidence,” which is represented mathematically by a 51 percent likelihood of liability.
Criminal litigation requires a much higher level of proof to impose liability on the defendant. As a result, if the defendant is liable criminally, then the same facts should presumably give rise to civil liability (assuming that there is a claim that you can bring against the defendant which rests on similar factual conclusions).
By that same token, if a criminal proceeding fails, it is possible for a civil lawsuit to succeed for the plaintiff (i.e., the injured party) — as the standard of proof is less strict. For example, in the famous OJ Simpson trial, OJ was found “not guilty” in the criminal case but was found “liable” in the parallel civil lawsuit.
Often, the timing of a civil lawsuit can be influenced by parallel criminal proceedings. The court may choose to “stay” (i.e., pause) civil proceedings until the criminal case is resolved.
That does not mean that you should delay getting an attorney, however. Your attorney will act to ensure that your case is filed before the statute of limitations period passes and will gather and preserve necessary evidence for your civil lawsuit.
Here at Cross & Smith, our team has decades of experience working on behalf of a range of plaintiffs, including those who have been injured in circumstances that could give rise to a parallel criminal proceeding. We pursue litigation from beginning to end — from the initial settlement negotiations all the way through to trial (if necessary).
Over the years, we have built a reputation as relentless advocates, who are willing and able to explore every detail of the case. Our trial readiness gives us the leverage we need to push for favorable settlements. Since our founding, this approach has earned us a great deal of success.
If you would like to speak to an experienced Tuscaloosa injury attorney at Cross & Smith, call us at 877-791-0618 or send us a message online to schedule a free and confidential consultation today.