Drunk driving is a crime, but not every person who causes a car accident while under the influence of alcohol gets criminal penalties. The civil courts and criminal courts operate independently of each other, so a Miami car accident lawyer can help you seek compensation if the drunk driver who caused your injuries was never convicted of DUI in criminal court.
How are Civil and Criminal Cases Different?
Most of the court cases you hear about on the news or see dramatized in movies are criminal cases, but most of the ones in which you or people you know well have been directly involved are civil cases. If you have ever gotten divorced, settled a deceased family member’s estate, or faced a lawsuit about an unpaid debt, the legal proceedings took place in civil court. Personal injury lawsuits are civil cases. As in many civil matters, the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit is asking the court to order the defendant to pay monetary compensation to the plaintiff to compensate the plaintiff for financial losses caused by the defendant’s negligence. The plaintiff can win the case if they can persuade that a preponderance of the evidence shows that the defendant’s negligence directly caused the plaintiff’s financial losses.
In a criminal case, the state is accusing the defendant of a crime. If the court rules against the defendant, the court can order the defendant to pay a fine, but it may also impose other penalties, including but not limited to time in jail or prison. A jury, not a judge, decides whether the defendant is guilty. The case does not result in a conviction unless the prosecutors convince all twelve jurors beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt.
What are Your Rights if the Drunk Driver Does Not Go to Jail?
The criminal process has many safeguards to prevent wrongful convictions; therefore, it is tough to get a guilty verdict. If you got injured by a drunk driver, you have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. It is possible to show a preponderance of the evidence and, therefore, to prevail in your personal injury case, even if the prosecution was not able to establish the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal court. You can win your case regardless of whether the drunk driver was acquitted, took a plea deal, pleaded no contest, or never faced criminal charges at all.
What are Your Rights if the Drunk Driver Does Go to Jail?
If the drunk driver is convicted, the court might order him or her to pay restitution to you, and if you sue in civil court, your case will be a slam dunk. Neither of these scenarios will guarantee that you get your money because the 99% cannot afford to pay other people’s medical bills, and the one percent are adept at making it look on paper like their money doesn’t belong to them. A personal injury lawyer can help you identify other possible responsible parties from which to seek compensation.
Contact Gerson & Schwartz About Car Accident Cases
A car accident lawyer can help you if you have been injured in a drunk driving accident. Contact Gerson & Schwartz in Miami, Florida, to discuss your case.