When you’ve been injured by a vicious assault and you’re struggling to move forward with your life, it helps to know that the person who hurt you has been held accountable. While the criminal charges they face allows the state to pursue justice, you have to take action in civil court to get the financial compensation you deserve.
What happens, however, to your civil case if the other party is acquitted in criminal court? What if they’re never even charged? Does that mean an end to your civil case, as well?
Civil charges and criminal charges have different standards
Because a criminal conviction can have significant consequences on someone’s future and even deprive them of their liberty and rights, the courts hold the prosecution to a very high standard of proof in every case. They have to prove their claim “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
A civil claim, however, can only deprive someone of money. For that reason, the standard of proof is a lot lower: Plaintiffs are only required to prove their case by “the preponderance of evidence.” In practical terms, that means the jury only has to believe that there’s a 51% chance that the defendant is guilty of what they’re accused of doing.
How a criminal case can have an effect on your civil claim
If the person who hurt you pleads guilty to the charges and accepts a deal or is convicted at trial, that information can most assuredly be used against them in your civil claim.
On the other hand, the failure of the authorities to bring charges or win at trial may not mean anything to your civil claim. A famous example of this is the O. J. Simpson case. Simpson was acquitted of murder at his criminal trial but lost a civil suit to the victim’s family anyhow.
If you’ve been victimized by violence, find out more about your right to pursue a civil claim.