Are Car Accidents Classified As Civil or Criminal Cases?

What is a criminal case? How does it differ from a civil case? Which of these are car accidents classed into? If you have been involved in an Orange County crash, it is important to understand how you can seek compensatory damages. The first thing to consider is the fault. If you can prove that the other driver was at fault, you may be entitled to damages. However, you will also need to consider other aspects of your claim. An Orange County car accident lawyer can help you understand the process and make sure you file your claim in time.

Car accidents typically result in legal cases of a civil nature. However, there are instances where a criminal case may also be filed following a crash. Here is a look at what each type of litigation is and how it applies to Irvine car wrecks.

Difference Between Civil and Criminal Cases

The basic purpose of a civil case is to obtain some kind of compensation. This compensation is usually in the form of monetary damages. This is why civil cases are also often tied closely with ‘losses.’

If you suffer a personal injury in a car accident, you have to face tangible financial losses, such as vehicle damage, medical costs of treatment, and lost wages. You may also face intangible losses in the form of pain and suffering. Under California laws, you are entitled to compensation for these losses when they are caused by the at-fault driver. And a civil case is the legal way of obtaining such compensation.

In contrast, criminal cases are not at all about compensation. They are instead meant to establish the guilt or criminal offense of a person or entity. If the accused party is found guilty, different types of penalties may be imposed depending on the nature of the offense. Such penalties may include fines, license suspension, mandatory rehabilitation, participation in community programs, probation, and jail time.

Most Crashes Involve Civil Cases

Most car accidents result in civil litigation. This is simply because crashes are typically a result of general negligence and unintentional errors of a driver. The nature of litigation involved in a car accident also depends on the severity of the consequences.

For instance, if a driver is speeding and tailgates a second vehicle causing minor vehicle damage, the matter will very likely be resolved through a civil claim for damages. This is because the driver’s negligence caused a minor consequence. In contrast, if a speeding driver hits a second vehicle, overturning it and killing its occupants, a criminal case may be lodged for the driver’s conduct.

When Car Crashes Involve Criminal Cases

A criminal case is lodged in a car crash when the accident is caused by the extreme recklessness of a party. Common examples include:

  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI): DUI is a criminal offense under California laws. If a DUI driver causes an accident, the driver is likely to face separate criminal charges depending on the severity of the crash. For instance, DUI accidents involving fatalities may cause the prosecution to file vehicular manslaughter charges against the offender.
  • Speeding: When a driver is speeding well above the posted speed limit and causes an accident, criminal proceedings may be involved.
  • Road Rage: Road rage is when one driver deliberately engages in aggressive driving. If such behavior then results in an accident, the guilty driver may be in for both civil and criminal litigation.

Preponderance of the Evidence

To prove a civil claim for damages, a plaintiff only needs to prove their case by a “preponderance of the evidence” against the defendant. In other words, you only need to show that the allegations against the at-fault driver are at least 51% likely to be correct. If this standard is met, you are entitled to damages.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

A more robust requirement for proof is required in criminal litigation. You must essentially be able to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the plaintiff committed the criminal offense. This stricter standard of proof is meant to deter false indictments in criminal cases.

How Can an Orange County Car Accident Attorney Help?

If you have been hurt in an Irvine accident, it is important to get legal help at the earliest. Here at the Crockett Law Group, we work with you to determine what kind of claim you can file in the event of a crash. We also advise you on whether you should seek criminal proceedings in addition to a civil claim for damages. Our attorneys have extensive experience in personal injury law and can handle both civil and criminal litigation. Get in touch with us today to discuss your Orange County crash claim.

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