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What is the Difference Between Civil Negligence and Criminal Negligence?

What is the Difference Between Civil Negligence and Criminal Negligence?

If you have been seriously injured in an accident, you may have heard the term ‘negligence.’ To obtain compensation from the person or company who caused your injuries, you will need to show that they acted negligently. Negligence means failure to use reasonable care under the circumstances. There is a difference between criminal and civil negligence. 

For example, if you have been injured by someone’s negligence, you will need to bring a lawsuit in civil court. In other cases, the state of Georgia may hold a person criminally responsible for negligently causing another person’s death or injuries. We will discuss the differences between criminal and civil negligence below.

Civil Negligence and the Duty of Care

In civil personal injury lawsuits, negligence happens when someone fails to act with reasonable care during his or her dealings with others so as not to cause injury or damage. Negligence is different from an intentional accent. When someone acts negligently, they do not intend to harm another person. Instead, it is their carelessness that causes the accident that results in another person’s injury. Not all accidents are caused by negligence, however. Plaintiffs who become injured in a personal injury accident can be awarded damages for injuries caused by an accident. Still, they must prove that the individual or entity responsible for the accident:

  • Owned them a duty of care
  • Breached the duty of care
  • The breach caused their injuries, and 
  • The injuries are measurable by a monetary loss

The plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit needs to prove all of those elements by a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, they will need to prove that all of these elements are more likely than not true. Without proving all four of the elements listed above, the plaintiff may not recover damages for his or her injuries. Accidents that fall under the category of civil negligence include the following:

  • Simple car accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Failure to secure your property from potential hazards such as wet floors
  • Failure to make staircases and steps safe and free from ice

Criminal Negligence

On the other hand, criminal negligence occurs when an individual acts with disregard or indifference to human life that creates a risk of great bodily injury or death to those around him or her. When criminal negligence is involved, the state can choose whether or not to bring criminal charges against the defendant. The criminal court system is entirely separate from the civil court system. Someone can face charges for criminal negligence and a personal injury lawsuit in civil court against the victim or their family. Criminal negligence falls short of intentional or even reckless conduct.

Intentional conduct means that someone acted in such a way that he or she knew what the consequences of the action would be and intended their results. For example, pointing a loaded gun at someone and pulling the trigger would be intentional. Reckless conduct happens when the individual may be aware of the risks but does not care what the consequences of the actions may be. An example of reckless behavior would be shooting a gun into a crowd. 

DUI Fatalities are Often the Result of Criminal Negligence

An example of criminal negligence would be drinking a third glass of wine at a party before getting into your vehicle to drive home. If the driver is involved in a fatal accident that kills someone, prosecutors may charge them with criminal negligence. Many types of charges based on criminal negligence involve the consumption of alcohol. 

A person may not intend to kill another person by getting into a car accident but still fail to use reasonable care and decide that it was better to stay home because of their alcohol consumption. In some cases, prosecutors may bring enhanced charges for reckless behavior when the driver is extremely intoxicated or driving aggressively.

Plaintiffs Rights and the Legal Remedies in Criminal and Civil Negligence Cases

In a personal injury lawsuit involving civil negligence, the plaintiff must prove his or her allegations by a preponderance of the evidence. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s negligence caused his or her injuries. If they do so, the plaintiff may be entitled to a monetary judgment against the defendant in an amount that will compensate him or her for his or her injuries. On the other hand, and criminal negligence action, there may be a criminal penalty involved under statutory law. 

Suppose a defendant has been charged with criminal negligence homicide. That defendant will face a criminal penalty that will include the possibility of a prison sentence if he or she is found guilty. A civil action may also be brought against the defendant by the decedent’s loved ones for “wrongful death.”

Sometimes there is a fine line between simple negligence and criminal negligence. During a person’s life, there are usually many times that he or she will act negligently and could even cause accidents. Understanding these risks and avoiding unreasonable actions that could lead to accidents may make a difference between being sued for negligence and a charge of criminal negligence. If you have been the victim of another person or company’s negligence and have suffered a serious personal injury, you may be entitled to compensation for your injury.

Contact an Experienced Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney Today

Understanding the difference between criminal and civil negligence is essential. Prosecuting people who harm others due to criminal negligence keeps our society safer. Likewise, allowing victims of personal injury accidents to bring a lawsuit for compensation holds people accountable for their behavior. If you or your loved one has been seriously injured by another person’s negligence, you need an experienced attorney on your side. Contact James Rice, a skilled Atlanta personal injury attorney, today to schedule your free initial consultation.

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