Is It Better to Seek Compensation for Car Crash Losses Through a Civil Case or Criminal Case?

Is It Better to Seek Compensation for Car Crash Losses Through a Civil Case or Criminal Case?

Is It Better to Seek Compensation for Car Crash Losses Through a Civil Case or Criminal Case?

By Jan Hoen

Although not unusual, a majority of car crashes in Virginia do not result in any serious criminal charges being filed against the at-fault driver. This is because many car crashes are the result of negligent behavior, but ordinary negligence will not usually support criminal charges. However, where a driver engages in extremely reckless or intentional conduct – such as driving under the influence as this driver is accused of doing – the local Commonwealth Attorney’s office can file a criminal case against the driver.  Additionally, the injured individual and/or his or her family can file a separate civil action against the driver. Is there any benefit to filing a civil action? As it turns out, filing a civil case is essential if the injury victim and/or his or her family wishes to obtain full compensation.

Restitution in a Criminal Case

When a crime has been committed against another person or caused another person to suffer a loss and a criminal case is filed, the crime victim may ask the court (through the prosecutor’s office) for restitution. Restitution is meant to compensate the crime victim for the costs that he or she has endured as a result of the criminal activity. In a driving under the influence case in which the victim was injured and required hospitalization, a restitution award can be sought and (if obtained) would pay for these expenses. Unlike guilt in a criminal case (which must be established beyond a reasonable doubt), a crime victim will be compensated if he or she is able to establish the amount of loss and that the loss is related to the criminal activity by a preponderance of the evidence (that these two facts are more likely than not true).

Limitations of Criminal Restitution Awards

In some cases, the amount a crime victim would receive through a restitution award would be nearly identical to the recovery he or she would receive in a civil case. Nonetheless, there are at least two reasons why an injury victim should still consider filing a civil lawsuit even if he or she is seeking restitution through a criminal case:

  • Burden of proof: There is always the chance that the criminal defendant would be found not guilty, meaning there would be no restitution award. The burden of proof in a civil case is much lower, which means recovery is easier to obtain through a civil case.
  • Certain damages not available: Restitution is usually not able to compensate a victim for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life. In addition, punitive damages are not available through a restitution award.

For these reasons, if you or a loved one has been injured by an extremely reckless or deliberate act by another driver (including driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs), do not simply assume that a criminal restitution order will adequately compensate you. Contact Jan Hoen of Hampton Injury Law and retain his services and counsel. He will fight aggressively through the civil court system to help you obtain full compensation for your injuries and losses. Contact Hampton Injury Law today to discuss your case by calling (757) 838-1138 or by completing the firm’s online contact form.

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