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Personal Injury Claim Vs. Criminal Lawsuits

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You can pursue a personal injury claim stemming from a criminal act, such as an assault. However, the personal injury case will be much different from the criminal case even though there may be some relationship between the two cases.

The Major Differences

Many differences exist between criminal and personal injury cases, but these are the ones that stand out.


If someone commits a crime, then either the government or the victim of the crime can start criminal proceedings against the suspect. However, only the victim of a civil wrongdoing can pursue a civil claim. For example, the government cannot pursue auto accident damages on your behalf; you have to pursue the damages on your own.


Criminal cases take place in criminal courts, while personal injury lawsuits take place in civil courts.


For you to file a personal injury case, you must prove that the person you are suing caused you actual harm. However, a criminal case can proceed even if the alleged criminal act didn't harm anyone. For example, an intoxicated driver can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) even if they don't cause an accident.  However, the intoxicated driver can only face a personal injury claim if they cause an accident.

Trial Standards

The trial standards vary for civil lawsuits and criminal cases. If the government has charged someone with murder, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant executed the murder. If you are pursuing wrongful death claims against a person, you only need to prove that the defendant is more likely than not to have caused you harm.


A defendant who loses a criminal case faces different forms of punishment. For example, they might be incarcerated or ordered to pay a criminal fine. A defendant who loses a personal injury case might be ordered to compensate the injury victim or stop causing some harm.

The Effect of Criminal Cases on Civil Cases

If a criminal and injury case stem from the same act, then the criminal case is more likely to affect the injury case instead of the other way round. For example, if the defendant is convicted in the criminal case, you can use the conviction as evidence in your personal injury case against the same defendant.

Possibility of Different Outcomes

Note that since injury and criminal cases have different standards of proof, it is possible for cases stemming from the same act to result in different outcomes. For example, a defendant might be acquitted of homicide in a criminal case but found liable for wrongful death in a civil case.

For more information, consult a lawyer who is experienced with criminal or personal injury law.