As a victim of a criminal act, most of the interaction that injured persons will have is with either the county solicitor or district attorney’s office. Crimes ranging from manslaughter, driving under the influence, serious injury by vehicle and homicide by vehicle can not only impact the quality of the life of a victim but also have several different legal implications.
Regardless of the prosecuting office, the attorneys representing the state in bringing the defendant to justice and the personal injury attorney have two very different objectives. The attorneys representing the State have the primary purpose of deterring crime and punishing the accused while the injury attorney’s only goal is to place the injured party in the place they were in prior to the crime or accident. Criminal prosecution is typically broken into two parts, 1) a range of punishment according to the the guidelines of the criminal statute the accused is alleged to have committed and 2) restitution. Under O.C.G.A § 17-14-10, the criminal court is required to order restitution when it is requested by the state. However, as stated in Morrison v. State, 181 Ga. App. 440 (1987), restitution is not synonymous with civil damages. In fact, there are some civil remedies available to an injured party that aren’t allowed in a criminal proceeding. The word “damages” in the context of a criminal proceeding means all special damages which a victim could recover against an offender in a civil action, based on the same act or acts for which the offender is sentenced, except punitive damages and damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, or loss of consortium. O.C.G.A §17-14-2 In this sense, the criminal definition of damages results in a potentially lower amount of recovery for the injured party.
Besides the restrictions placed on the amount of damages recoverable in a criminal case, there are other differences between seeking damages in criminal and civil matters. For instance, the standard of proof in a criminal matter is beyond a reasonable doubt while the standard of proof in a civil matter is by a preponderance of the evidence. Needless to say, it is much more difficult to prove a fact pattern in criminal superior or state court because of this higher standard. This difference in the level of proof also results in many incidents being tried before a civil jury where there is a higher probability of success. Another distinction between criminal and civil actions is the statute of limitations. The state is given two years to pursue a misdemeanor offense and up to four years to pursue most felonies. O.C.G.A §17-3-1. The injury or accident attorney is only given two years to file suite for bodily injuries to a plaintiff. O.C.G.A § 9-3-33 There have been countless injured persons who have come dangerously close to missing their deadline to file a claim for personal injury because they were waiting on the criminal case to conclude.
The managing attorney at Douglasville Personal Injury Attorneys worked as an assistant district attorney prior to focusing her efforts on injury related matters. We can evaluate your case and discuss the best course of action.