One of the most important things to understand about personal injury cases is that the same defendant can face a civil trial and a criminal trial at the same time as two distinct cases. The civil and criminal courts are two different areas of the law. Criminal cases are prosecuted by the state and represent the government authorities. Civil cases are filed by plaintiffs and provide repayment for damages inflicted on them.
The distinction here is important. Some can seek justice in criminal charges—but only a civil case will provide the victim with what they actually need: support, closure, and financial recompense.
Not only that, but the burden of proof for a civil case is lower than a criminal case. To be convicted of a crime, juries must find a defendant guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt." In a civil court case, that same jury would only need to determine guilt by "a preponderance of evidence."
This means you are more likely to have justice in an injury case than a criminal one. We've seen and heard plenty of stories where sexual assault suspects will be acquitted by the state, but a civil jury will find them guilty of causing a victim damage and pain. It sounds strange, but it's true—a person can be both guilty and innocent of the same exact situation.
Below, we present a story of a client who suffered an incredible tragedy and sought justice in civil law at the same time the police were in the middle of filing criminal charges.
Boy Dies as a Result of Caretaker Abuse
(We've changed the names of those involved for the sake of their privacy).
The parents of a deceased one-year-old boy have filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking answers about their child's death while local police authorities contend that one or both of the child's caretakers are under investigation for landing the fatal blows, and previous blows, as reported by the Journal Star.
Patrick died 5 years ago, on January 3, 2012, of a skull fracture and brain bleed. The boy's father, Ken, is searching for whoever is responsible. Ken told reporters, "It's not easy to wait and have it take as long as it has, but we're hopeful someday we'll get some justice."
On the morning of Patrick's death Ken had placed him under the care Stay N Learn, a home daycare center located at 1029 S. 35th Street. The couple in charge of the center, Paula and Loren, were both responsible for the boy's care.
After dropping Patrick off at approximately 8:15 a.m., sometime later, between 9:50 a.m. and 3:37 p.m., Paula found him unresponsive and called 911. According to Lincoln Police, the child died within one hour after rescue workers arrived and transported him to a local hospital.
Following an autopsy it was determined that Patrick had received recent head and shoulder trauma. It was also discovered, after issuing a search warrant of the daycare center, that there were earlier blows to his skull, that were healing at the time of his death.
Paula and Loren have since had their own two children, aged 2 and 4, removed from their custody and placed with the children's grandparents. The couple's parental rights may possibly be terminated—as the county attorney's office is seeking to do just that in juvenile court.
Chief Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Alicia Henderson has alleged that one of the two caretakers are responsible for Patrick's injuries and fatality. She also contends that the daycare center failed to provide the child with adequate care that also added to his death.
Seeking Justice for the Death of a Child
The suit was filed in December of 2012 and seeks damages of $4,100 for medical, funeral and burial expenses, as well as other unspecified general damages. The allegations made in the suit are comparable to the allegations made by the county attorney's office.
Both the juvenile case and the civil case are expected to go to court this January. There have been no criminal charges yet filed against Paula or Loren. At this point the police investigators believe that the caretakers are responsible; however, they are unsure as to whether it was one or both of them that caused the boy's physical injuries. The death continues to be investigated until police feel they have enough evidence to prove their case.
Ken has said, "We're not going to let this go away."
Contact a personal injury lawyer if you have lost a family member due to the actions, or negligence, of another party. Obtaining a monetary award can help you defray the costs of a funeral, and other damages.