There is a Criminal Case Against the Person Who Caused My Injury: Can I File a Personal Injury Claim Now?

by Gina Corena

posted in Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorneys on January 28, 2022

There is a Criminal Case Against the Person Who Caused My Injury: Can I File a Personal Injury Claim Now?

There are many instances where criminal and civil cases can overlap. A single violent act can render the perpetrator criminally responsible and liable in a personal injury suit.

One of the most famous criminal and civil liability instances involves the OJ Simpson murder case. OJ Simpson was brought up on charges for allegedly murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman. After a not guilty verdict in criminal court, the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman filed a wrongful death suit in civil court. 

OJ Simpson was found liable for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. A jury awarded the victims’ families $33.5 million, including punitive damages.

How Are Criminal Cases Different Than Civil Cases in Las Vegas?

While criminal and civil claims can result from the same act, there are substantial differences. Criminal law involves cases where there is a potential danger to the public. Civil law applies to private disputes.

In a criminal case:

  • The victim does not file a case. The government brings criminal charges against a person for an alleged crime. Some crimes are victimless.
  • The goal of a criminal case is to bestow guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and pursue a fair punishment for the act. If the defendant is found guilty, they may face imprisonment, probation, or ordered to pay a monetary penalty. If the defendant is found not guilty, they are free to go and cannot be prosecuted in the future for the same crime.

In a civil case;

  • A plaintiff can refer to a person, organization, or business. A plaintiff must pursue a case of their own volition for damages. In civil law, damages refer to how the plaintiff suffered from the wrongdoing. 
  • For example, if an employee is wrongfully terminated, they may lose their benefits and wages. In addition, they may suffer emotional distress from the act. The employee’s damages would include the lost benefits, wages, and emotional distress suffered from the termination.
  • The goal of a civil case is to make the plaintiff whole. In keeping with the above example, the employee may be made whole in the eyes of the court by having their position reinstated, being reimbursed for any lost benefits and wages, compensated for emotional distress. 
  • Punitive damages are not related to the suffering of the plaintiff. Punitive damages are strictly the civil court’s way of punishing severe wrongdoing or gross negligence.

Not every act of wrongdoing will provide a reason for a criminal and civil case. However, It is essential to know your rights if you wish to pursue a civil lawsuit.

What Happens When a Car Accident Becomes Criminal?

Recently, Las Vegas has been rocked by a horrific and tragic car crash that took the lives of nine people. Among the fatalities, all six children from a single family were killed. 

The children of Erlinda Zacarías and Jesús Mejía ranged in age from five years old to 25 years old. The 7th victim was Zacarías’ brother, Jose Zacarías-Caldera, age 35:

  • Fernando Yeshua Mejia, 5
  • Adrian Zacarias, 10
  • Lluvia Daylenn Zacarias, 13
  • Bryan Axel Zacarias, 15
  • Gabriel Mejia-Barrera, 23
  • David Mejia-Barrera, 25

According to local news, Gary Dean Robinson drove his Dodge Challenger through a red light at more than 100 mph, striking several vehicles. He and his passenger were also killed.

As Las Vegas mourns this unfathomable tragedy, a memorial is being set up at the crash site to honor the victims. The Mejía-Zacaría family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for their children’s and brother’s funerals. 

Robinson committed an act so heinous that had he lived, Robinson would have faced charges in criminal and civil court. 

Court records have shown that Robinson had committed several felonies and other crimes going back to 1989. In the days before the deadly crash, Robinson pleaded guilty to speeding 10 miles over the limit and paid a $150 fine.

What if the Criminal Charges are Dropped?

A plaintiff may still pursue civil charges when criminal charges are dropped. 

Recently, manslaughter charges were dropped in a fatal motorway accident. While the accident occurred in England, the criminal and civil law system works similarly enough to our legal system for the purpose of the example.

National Highways, formerly known as Highways England, was initially brought up on corporate manslaughter charges in the deaths of Nargis Begum, 62, and Jason Mercer and Alexandru Murgeanu, aged 44 and 22.

There was no hard shoulder for the couple to safely pull off when their car broke down in South Yorkshire. As Nargis Begum waited for help on the side, another car crashed into the stopped vehicle and mowed the “grandmother of nine” down. 

Despite multiple deaths and many more injuries caused by the lack of a hard shoulder, a technicality in the law is forcing the corporate manslaughter charges to be dropped.

Families of the victims will continue their fight in civil court.

How Can Criminal Charges Affect a Personal Injury Case?

When charges are dropped, plaintiffs may still pursue justice in civil court. In criminal law, it must be proven that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil law, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant was negligent, and the negligent act directly caused their injuries.

Due to the different standards of proof, a plaintiff may win a civil suit if the criminal charges are dropped. If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty, the verdict can help support a personal injury claim.

If the defendant pleads no contest, it is important to know the difference. Pleading guilty is admitting guilt for the criminal act. However, pleading no contest means the defendant acknowledges and admits the facts of the charge are true but will not admit guilt. 

The distinction is crucial to a personal injury suit. If the defendant enters a guilty plea, it can support the civil case. A plea of no contest cannot be used in civil court.

When you have concerns about a criminal case’s effects on a personal injury claim, consult with an experienced attorney from Gina Corena & Associates

 

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