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Car accidents: Does outcome of criminal case affect civil suit?

Victims of auto crashes in New York can pursue financial relief if they can prove that another party's negligence caused their injuries and other damages. This is done through the civil justice system of the state. In many cases, criminal charges are filed against drivers whose reckless driving or intoxication caused car accidents. Can a civil personal injury lawsuit still be filed after a driver's guilt in causing the crash could not be proved in criminal court?

The viability of a civil lawsuit is not linked to the outcome of a criminal case. This is because the civil court requires proof of negligence by a preponderance of the evidence while a conviction in criminal court can only occur if, and when, the prosecution proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if evidence of negligence, recklessness or bad intent is not sufficient for a criminal conviction, it might be enough to obtain a monetary judgment in a civil court.

However, if there is a criminal conviction, it can speed up a civil lawsuit because of the more rigorous standard of proof in criminal court. If the other party is convicted, a lot of the hard work will already be done. The evidence presented in the criminal proceeding will be available, and that might be enough to present in the civil court. In some circumstances, the criminal conviction itself may be sufficient to establish negligence per se in civil court.

Victims of car accidents in New York might be overwhelmed by the financial consequences, but hesitate to tackle the daunting task of filing a civil lawsuit. No one has to do this without the support and guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney. With the advocacy of legal counsel throughout, financial and emotional damages might be recovered, regardless of the outcome of a criminal case.

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