Criminal Cases and Lawsuits
It is understood that when a crime is committed, and the police have enough proof to charge someone, a trial is conducted (or a plea is reached). This usually holds true, but many people are not aware that even a criminal action can be the subject of a civil lawsuit. A lawsuit allows the victim to receive damages for their loss. A lawsuit is not the only way to be compensated, as a victim can apply for restitution as well. However, it is important to understand the pros and cons of each option, which can be done effectively with the aid of an attorney.
Civil Lawsuit versus Trial
The main difference between a lawsuit and a criminal trial is the involvement of the victim. Only the prosecutor and the defendant are involved in a trial and the victim is not a third party in the courtroom. However, a lawsuit is brought forth by the victim and exists to recover losses the victim has suffered. While a trial allows determining the guilt and punishment of the perpetrator, the victim would not be immediately compensated. Alongside a trial, the victim can file a lawsuit so that they can receive damages for lost wages, pain and suffering, and expenses like medical bills.
A lawsuit can be compared to receiving restitution in the criminal system. The lawsuit must be totally handled by the victim (and their lawyer), which means proving legal burdens and then potentially receiving damages. Applying for victim restitution is different as the process is handled by the prosecution and the judge. The victim would have to provide statements regarding losses and the judge determines restitution.
Applicable Crimes and Convictions
The defendant does not have to be proven guilty in a criminal court in order to face a lawsuit. Even if the defendant is not found guilty, the victim can still bring forth a civil lawsuit. The civil and criminal systems work differently and there are different burdens of proof.
Victims should consult their lawyers prior to moving forward with a lawsuit. However, almost all crimes can also be brought forward in a civil case. Crimes like assault, domestic violence, child abuse, robbery, stalking, and many others can be the justification for filing a lawsuit. Even allegations of murder can be the basis for a lawsuit, as the family of the victim can sue for wrongful death.