Following a major accident involving criminal charges, some victims may believe that because the state will be criminally prosecuting the at-fault party, this is the same as filing a personal injury lawsuit and receiving compensation. In reality, the criminal prosecution led by local authorities and a civil personal injury lawsuit that a victim of an accident may bring are completely different cases—even though they may both implicate and arise out of the same set of facts from the accident. Understanding this difference is crucial so that you do not miss out on the compensation that you deserve.
According to a recent local news report, a major car accident involving multiple vehicles left at least one individual dead. Based on a preliminary investigation, a Mercedes failed to stop for a red light at an intersection and crashed into a Chevrolet. The Chevrolet then crashed into a Honda. Both the driver of the Chevrolet and the Honda were stopped at the intersection while waiting for the red light. The driver of the Chevrolet was declared dead on the scene and the driver of the Honda was transported to a local hospital by helicopter, where he later died. Based on this preliminary investigation, local authorities believe that speed and alcohol were both contributing factors to the accident. The details of the crash remain under investigation.
What is the difference between a criminal and civil lawsuit in Maryland?
Following a major car accident like the one described above, local authorities may prosecute the at-fault party if criminal wrongdoing, such as driving or operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, was a contributing factor or the cause of an accident. The charges that local authorities bring against the at-fault party, however, do not involve compensation to the victims of the accident. Instead, they aim to punish or deter the at-fault driver through fines imposed by the government, jail time, community service, or suspension of a license.
If you are a victim of a car accident where the at-fault party is being charged criminally, you should file a personal injury lawsuit separately. This claim would take place in civil court, separate from criminal court proceedings where local authorities charge the at-fault party, and would award damages or compensation to victims to help them financially recover from the accident.
Although both the criminal case and your civil case may arise out and implicate the same facts and details from the car accident, that does not mean they are necessarily tied to each other or affect each other. For example, an at-fault party could be found not guilty in a criminal prosecution claiming that they were driving under the influence, but still required to pay damages in a separate civil personal injury lawsuit because their negligence contributed in some way to the crash.
Do You Need a Maryland Personal Injury Lawyer?
If you or someone you know was recently injured or killed in a Maryland car accident, contact the lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen today. Our lawyers have years of experience representing clients in all different types of claims and will work to get you the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free initial consultation today, contact us at 800-654-1949.