Civil Justice versus Criminal Justice

Our legal system has two arms—the civil and the criminal justice systems.  These two systems are separate and distinct.  The criminal justice system is what we are most familiar with from television and movies—this is the system where a prosecutor, who works for the state or federal government, goes after a criminal for a crime or offense and seeks jail time or fines as punishment.  The civil system, on the other hand, is concerned with compensating people for damages—or, in other words, paying money to injured people for the wrongs they have suffered.  When do criminal acts equal civil recovery?

Some examples of criminal acts include murder, conspiracy to commit a crime, or possession of drugs.  Civil lawsuits, which involve private rights rather than the public good, include things like divorce and custody and bankruptcy, but also “torts,” also known as personal injury lawsuits, which are the ones we handle at Roadrunner Law Firm.

Different Standards of Proof

Civil and criminal cases differ importantly in terms of the legal standard of proof—or, in other words, the level of evidence it takes for a party to win a case. In criminal cases, the standard is that the accused are guilty of committing a crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But in civil cases, the burden of proof is lower—usually based on the “preponderance of evidence” or “clear and convincing” standards.  This means that the civil lawyer needs to convince the jury that the scale of evidence tips just a feather’s weight in favor of her client.  In this way, it is easier to “win” a civil case even if the actions involved could give rise to a criminal case that was lost at trial.

Some Crimes Give Rise to Civil Lawsuits

In some instances, the act of a wrongdoer can give rise to both a criminal case and a civil case. One example of this scenario is the OJ Simpson case.  The prosecutors in that case could not meet their burden of proof, so OJ was acquitted of the crime of murder.  However, he later lost the civil wrongful death lawsuit brought by the families of the murder victims and was forced to liquidate his assets to pay money damages to them for their injuries.  So when do criminal acts equal civil recovery?

Vehicle Related Crimes Can Also Become Civil Lawsuits

Another example of a crime that can also give rise to a civil lawsuit is a vehicle-related crime.  For example, a drive-by shooting is both a crime and a potential civil claim.  If a person is injured by someone who leans out of a car window to shoot a gun, that person is a crime victim.  But a crime victim cannot control what happens to the criminal in the criminal justice system—there might be a prosecution with jail time, or the wrongdoer might take a plea or be found not guilty.  There may or may not be consequences in the criminal system for that person.  However, the victim can claim money damages in the civil system under both the drive-by shooter’s automobile insurance policy, if he has one, but also under any uninsured motorist coverage that the victim carried.  Roadrunner Law Firm has written previously about the importance of carrying uninsured motorist coverage on your own automobile insurance policy.  One of the reasons that this is important in New Mexico is that certain crimes that involve the use of automobiles can give rise to a claim under your uninsured motorist coverage.  This coverage would be separate from any jail time or criminal restitution the criminal courts ordered the drive-by shooter to pay.

In a state that deals with horrible road rage incidents and gang-related drive-by shooting crimes, the unfortunate reality is that some innocent people can be faced with injuries due to vehicle-related crimes, like drive-by shootings, drag-racing, or road-rage.  The experienced trial team at Roadrunner Law Firm sees these kinds of claims every day, and we understand how to analyze the available coverages in light of the facts to determine the appropriate strategy to take for your case.

Violent Crimes are Also Torts

Assaults and batteries are also crimes in New Mexico that can become separate civil lawsuits.  Roadrunner Law Firm has written previously about cases it has handled stemming from violent attacks against innocent community members on the premises of local businesses.  We have handled cases involving shootings at apartment complexes, purse snatchings, kidnappings, sexual assaults, and beatings—none of which should have happened, if the businesses involved had provided adequate security.  In these cases, a crime was committed that can and should be prosecuted in order to punish the wrongdoer; however, the victims of these crimes also deserve to be paid back for the physical, emotional, and monetary losses they have had to endure as a result of the acts of these criminals.  In these kinds of cases, Roadrunner Law Firm can analyze the facts to determine all of the parties who were at fault, including any businesses who might be held accountable for failing to ensure the public safety.  If you have been hurt by a criminal, you deserve to know that your rights in both the civil and the criminal systems are being protected.

Roadrunner Law Firm Can Help

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a violent attack such as a beating, robbery, drive-by shooting, sexual assault, or kidnapping, call Roadrunner Law Firm today to consult with one of our experienced, aggressive, and caring team of trial lawyers.  Our attorneys know the right questions to ask to determine whether you have a civil case.  We will work tirelessly by your side to fight for every dollar you deserve to help you put the pieces back together after a violent crime.

Results – When Criminal Acts Also Equal Civil Recovery

  • Confidential settlement for a family grievously pushed off the road by drunk driver in “road rage” incident
  • $450,000.00 for the estate of an elderly woman killed by drag racers
  • $150,000.00 for a gentleman run over by a road raging motorist
  • $60,000.00 for the victim of a drive-by shooter (victim hit by shrapnel)
  • Confidential settlement for estate of shooting victim at local apartment complex