Criminal convictions impact the outcomes of civil cases big time. Learn how it works in this post.
About Criminal Convictions in Civil Cases
Everyone remembers the OJ Simpson criminal case. He appeared to get away with the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and Ron Goldman.
While justice probably wasn’t served in that case, Simpson eventually got what he deserved: a 33-year sentence for the conviction of kidnapping and armed robbery as he attempted to obtain sports memorabilia from collectibles dealers.
Even though he likely got away with murder, he later had to pay $25 million million in punitive damages to the families of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. On top of that, they were also awarded $8.5 million in compensatory damages, for a grand total of $33.5 million. That’s the part of the story you don’t hear as much about.
Everyone believed Simpson was the real killer. And the civil case finally gave the victims’ families a sense of closure and justice.
How do Criminal Convictions Affect Civil Cases?
In most situations, it’s an absolute deal-killer for the convicted person. Criminal court requires the highest standard of legal proof – “beyond a reasonable doubt” – that must be confirmed by the jury, or by a guilty plea of the accused individual.
Civil court, however, has a much lower burden of proof. In Simpson’s case, 9 of 12 jurors involved in the case simply had to agree that “in all probability Mr. Simpson committed the slayings.”
10 of 12 jurors agreed Simpson needed severe financial punishment for his actions.
A More Likely Scenario: You’re Injured by an Inattentive or Drunk Driver
Hopefully, no one you love ever gets hurt or killed by another driver’s negligent actions. But if they do, and they’re convicted of criminal charges, that makes it highly likely you’ll win the civil case too.
Our legal system still requires you to go through the civil process though. The advantage here is that your personal injury attorney can already see how the convicted person’s legal team will strategize their defense. They’ll likely use a plan similar to the one they used to defend the criminal charges.
In civil cases, the motive for the action does not matter. So if someone assaults you, it doesn’t matter why to simply win the case. However, a particularly evil motive may result in you winning more punitive damages. In criminal court, the prosecuting attorney would have to prove the defendant intended to harm the victim in the case of the assault.
At the end of the day, the State of Texas has control over the outcomes of criminal cases. However, victims have control over civil cases and their outcomes.
Stay safe out there. And if someone else’s negligence harms you, get in touch with a personal injury lawyer.
Shane V. Mullen is an attorney licensed by the State of Texas for the general practice of law, and the Managing Partner at Mullen & Mullen Law Firm in Dallas, TX. His firm focuses exclusively on personal injury law and has been in business for 40 years. Before becoming a lawyer, Shane worked for his father as an accident injury claims investigator.