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Can you start a civil suit after criminal charges?

On Behalf of | Nov 5, 2021 | Serious Injuries

When someone is arrested and goes to criminal court, the court considers their legal standing and potentially hands out a punishment, such as time behind bars. This can often give the families of the victim a sense of justice.

What it doesn’t give them is compensation. Say a family loses a loved one in a serious car accident. A speeding driver hits an SUV at more than 100 miles per hour, the SUV catches on fire, and the person inside of the vehicle passes away. It turns out that the speeding driver, who lived through the crash, had a blood alcohol concentration that was more than twice the legal limit.

Yes, the family wants to see justice served, but they also lost a family member. They have immediate medical bills and funeral costs. They may have lost wages or future earnings that could have supported the person’s family. Everyone involved has suffered tremendously, and their lives will never be the same. Can they start a civil case to seek financial compensation independently from the criminal case?

The family can seek compensation

Yes, there is crossover between these two types of cases, and family members can start civil suits. They are not prevented from doing so by the existence of the criminal case. This is not an example of double jeopardy, when someone is tried twice for the same crime. The two cases are different and can coexist, even though they involve the same events.

Moreover, the outcomes do not have to be the same. Someone could see their criminal charges dropped on a technicality, for instance, and not go to jail, while still being ordered to pay compensation to the victim’s family by the criminal court. A criminal conviction can help a civil case, of course, providing evidence of fault, but it is not required.

What do you need to do?

If you have lost a loved one or suffered catastrophic injuries, you may be entitled to compensation. It’s crucial that you know what steps to take to seek everything that you deserve.