Criminal Case and Civil Personal Injury Case

Criminal Charges and a Civil Personal Injury Case 

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Most people aren’t aware that committing assault against someone else can include Criminal Charges AND a Civil Personal Injury Lawsuit.

Successful criminal prosecution of an assault charge and a successful personal injury claim have very similar processes. There are, of course, KEY differences needed for a victorious case. It is also essential to understand how the criminal prosecution of an assault, affects a related personal injury claim. This article will explain these differences between a civil personal injury claim and a criminal prosecution for assault and how they interact.

Intent during a Civil Personal Injury Claim

Intentional assault means one person meant to commit an act of violence against another. This factor must be proved to create liability in a civil personal injury claim. A plaintiff needs only to prove the defendants intent of the assault through apprehension.

If the defendant was aware that their action would cause apprehension, then the plaintiff has a civil personal injury claim.

It doesn’t matter the motive of the defendant in this case. However, the motive can lead to more punitive damages in court.

The critical question, “Did the plaintiff have a reasonable reaction to the defendant’s actions?”, regardless of what the defendant thought they were doing.

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Intent during a Criminal Assault Case

In a criminal assault case, the prosecution must prove that the defendant’s acts intended to assault the victim.

In other words, a judge or jury must find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant wanted to assault the victim. The defendant also could have recklessly ignored that he or she appeared to be attacking the victim.

The central question in the criminal assault case is whether the defendant had criminal intent or “mens rea.”

State Controls Criminal Cases

Prosecution for a criminal assault charge occurs in criminal court. This means that a district attorney or other public attorney is in charge of the case against the defendant. The victim has little say in how this case is conducted.

Criminal assault is typically a misdemeanor unless the charges are for aggravated assault. Aggravated assault means the defendant attempted to cause serious injury or death. This can happen with or without the use of a deadly weapon.

Depending on the state, a misdemeanor charge may not entitle the defendant to a trial by jury. In these misdemeanor cases, the judge determines the outcome. 

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The Victim Controls a Civil Personal Injury Case

The victim in the criminal assault case becomes the plaintiff in a civil assault case. This occurs if they decide to sue the defendant for damages. A criminal case isn’t necessary for the plaintiff to sue in civil court.

If the plaintiff wins, the defendant does not receive a jail sentence or any other type of punishment. The defendant is charged to pay whatever amount of financial compensation the jury or court orders. Presenting the case to small claims court is the only way an assault case will involve a trial by jury.

A Criminal Case and Civil Personal Injury Case for the Same Assault

If the state decides to prosecute a defendant for criminal assault, the defendant cannot be sued in civil court for the same assault until the criminal case has concluded.

If a civil case is already underway when a criminal case starts, the civil litigation typically is paused until the criminal case has concluded.

When the case results in the defendant’s guilt any other “findings of fact,” can be used as evidence in a civil case. The doctrine called “collateral estoppel” is what makes this possible.

Collateral estoppel is a complex rule. The judge in the civil case applies this rule to determine whether the criminal findings can be used without having to prove everything a second time in the civil case.

It is difficult for even highly skilled attorneys to predict how a judge might apply collateral estoppel. The general rule is; if the defendant had a full and fair opportunity to plead his case in the criminal trial, the results from the criminal trial are applied in the civil court case.


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Hire an Attorney for your Civil Personal Injury Case

Attorney Julie M. Essa is an experienced litigator in the Greater Atlanta Area. She understands the ins and outs of complex assault charges. Don’t allow for your case to be swept under the rug, hire an attorney who will take on the necessary steps for your case to be successful. Hire The Law Offices of Essa, Janho & Associates, LLC.