If you have lost a loved one in a car accident, the circumstances of that fatal event could determine whether the individual considered at fault for the accident faces criminal charges. If the responsible driver had consumed alcohol before getting behind the wheel, failed to obey traffic laws or took part in other unlawful actions that led to the death, criminal charges often occur. You may feel some sense of vindication if authorities charge the at-fault driver.
You may wish to remember, however, that, due to the different types of law, you have the option to pursue a civil claim in addition to any criminal proceedings that may take place.
Criminal vs Civil
When it comes to criminal law, a person has charges leveled against him or her with the intent of punishment acting as the end result. Authorities often utilize criminal charges in hopes of deterring repeat behavior or to keep other individuals from committing similar acts. Additionally, laws must have been broken in order for criminal charges to result.
With civil claims, you as an individual can file a claim in hopes of obtaining compensation. The end goal of such a claim does not come as punishment but as restitution for the wrong committed against you. In cases in which a car accident has resulted in a fatality, you may file a wrongful death claim against the driver considered at fault due to his or her negligence.
Wrongful death claim
If you choose to pursue a wrongful death claim, your civil legal proceedings differ from those involved in a criminal case. For instance, a jury may not have a role in your civil case as they would in a criminal case. In terms of verdict, a judge determines liability in relation to your claim of wrongful death rather than a jury deciding guilt when it comes to manslaughter or homicide charges.
Furthermore, when it comes to proving your case, you must provide enough evidence to support your claims. This standard of proof falls into the category of "preponderance of evidence." In criminal cases, the evidence must prove the defendant's guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt."
Because numerous other differences between criminal and civil cases exist, you may wish to explore your legal claims options in order to determine whether pursuing a civil case could suit your circumstances.
Additionally, civil cases can prove just as complex as criminal cases in some instances, and therefore, you may wish to obtain the assistance of an experienced Georgia attorney.