Personal injury claims arise when you are injured due to another person’s negligence, and you can claim compensation for your injury and losses. The amount you can recover includes your medical bills, lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, pain and suffering endured from the injury. The injury sustained would have to be established through a medical chart review and this makes medical record retrieval very significant in an injury case. While providing medical review services for purposes of medical litigation, we keep updated on personal injury, product liability, medical malpractice and such other cases. In some instances, personal injury claims and criminal defense cases may converge presenting a challenging scenario. JDSUPRA recently carried an enlightening post on this topic. The following is what the content highlighted.
Take the case of a person who, under the influence of alcohol or some other intoxicant, gets into an auto accident where he/she rear-ends another vehicle with passengers in it. Or maybe a person gets caught in a drunken brawl in which another person is injured. These persons require a criminal defense attorney as well as a good personal injury attorney. People who act irresponsibly cause unfortunate accidents that involve innocent victims, or people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The victims could be compensated in the following ways.
- The insurance companies may accept the claims
- Criminal courts allow victims to obtain “restitution.” Restitution claims must be submitted to the District Attorney or City Attorney assigned to the case.
- The victim may hire a personal injury attorney and sue the defendant for damages, in which case the claims are handled through Civil Court.
The defendant is given the right to a restitution hearing, and in this the victim must testify to the damages sustained with proof. The evidence in this regard can be given in the form of medical records, receipts, and unpaid insurance claims. If the costs are found reasonable, the Judge will order the defendant to pay. What is important is that a victim cannot have “double recovery.” That is, if the civil court pays damages, the victim cannot claim damages from a criminal restitution hearing. Mostly, if the case is settled via a personal injury claim, a waiver is usually signed that prevents the victim from seeking additional damages from the criminal action.
The “plea” is a significant aspect in a criminal case. It is a defendant’s formal response to the court of the charges made against him/her. You can plead Not Guilty, Guilty, or No contest. “No contest” is a plea that informs the Court that the defendant does not admit guilt, however, the facts in the charge are true. The Court will advise in open court that a No contest plea has the same effect as a Guilty plea – the difference is regarding civil claims, where a No contest plea cannot be used against the person in a civil proceeding. This becomes highly significant in the case of a client who is being sued in civil court for an accident that was charged in criminal court.
The JSUPRA article mentions the case of a person involved in a DUI case, who decided to plead “No contest.” In this way he safeguarded himself from the victim using his plea against him in civil court. A Guilty plea would have been risky, and the civil court could have used his plea against him, leading to serious consequences in his civil suit. This client saved hundreds of thousands of dollars because of his skilled legal representation.
In cases where the personal injury and criminal defense aspects converge, it is important to have the criminal defense attorney understand the process of personal injury claims and work closely with that attorney to ensure a lack of judgement will not have a negative impact on the client.
We hope to share such interesting legal insights with our readers when we come across them. So check back often!