Many people are unaware that there are two different types of legal cases: criminal and civil. Criminal cases involve actions that are considered to be harmful to society as a whole and can result in harsher penalties such as prison. Civil cases, on the other hand, usually involve private disputes between individuals or businesses. The penalties for guilt in civil cases are usually monetary damages.
Thus, personal injury cases are considered civil cases, as it involves disputes as to who is at fault for a person’s injury. According to attorney Matthew J. Tharney, the most complex personal injury suits involve catastrophic injuries such as brain trauma, severe burns, life-altering orthopedic injuries and wrongful death/survivorship claims.
Most personal injury claims involve acts of negligence, such as not paying attention while driving, or failing to implement safety measures in the workplace. However, some injuries can be the result of a criminal offense, such as assault or driving while under the influence.
In situations where a criminal offense leads to injury, there can be multiple legal claims brought: one under criminal statutes and one under civil statutes. This means that a person who is the victim of a crime (and not just negligence) is often able to receive compensation for their injuries, lost wages, and potentially even ‘pain and suffering.’
Criminal vs Civil Lawyers
In scenarios where both criminal and civil legal claims are filed, different lawyers will be involved in the separate cases. In the criminal case, a government attorney will be prosecuting the wrongdoer on the government’s behalf. The person accused of the crime will need to retain a criminal defense lawyer to mount a defense on their behalf. Because of the gravity of criminal cases, a public defender will be provided to persons who cannot afford to hire their own criminal defense lawyer.
In the civil case, the injured person will need to either file a claim themselves, or work with an attorney that they retain to bring the case forward. Many personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means that they do not require up-front payment. Instead, they will take a percentage of whatever you end up recovering. The person responsible for the injury will either need to retain a lawyer to represent them, or if they have an applicable insurance policy, then the insurance company’s lawyers will become involved.
As you can see, the law often isn’t straightforward and it can become complex quickly. This is why it is often best to hire an attorney as quickly as possible after an injury or crime. They can guide you as to what your next steps should be.