It is estimated that more than 37 million Americans are victimized by crime each year and that this crime costs victims almost $350 billion dollars a year. Many times, the victims of crime are left with medical expenses, physical rehab expenses, counseling and lost wages. Many times, the victims of crimes or their families are unaware that there are two systems of justice to hold the offender responsible for his or her actions. One is the criminal justice system and is what most people think of when they think of crime victims. The other is the civil justice system. They are distinctly different from one another but in many cases criminal victims can seek civil justice against their criminal attackers. Sometimes, there are third-parties who can be held responsible through the civil justice system.
In the criminal justice process a judge or jury finds the defendant either innocent or guilty and if guilty they are punished by going to jail or prison. Sometimes, criminal victims can receive restitution orders to help compensate them for some of the expenses incurred because of the attack and the injuries. Unfortunately, restitution is limited and is rarely enforced leaving the victim with little recourse of obtaining any financial compensation.
On the other hand, the civil justice system does not look for innocence or guilt and does not look to incarcerate the offender. The civil justice system determines whether the offender or in some cases a third-party is civilly liable by placing responsibility for the acts.
In the civil justice system what is referred to as a “crime” in the criminal system is referred to as a “tort”. Most criminal offenses have a corresponding tort for which a crime victim can bring a civil lawsuit. Some examples are assault, battery, wrongful death, false imprisonment, fraud and in some cases intentional or reckless inflection of emotional distress.
What is needed to find a perpetrator guilty in a criminal case is different than a civil case. Remember OJ Simpson? You will recall that OJ was not guilty in the criminal trial but was found civilly responsible for damages in the civil trial. One of the primary differences is that in a civil case, the burden of proof is a “preponderance of the evidence” which is nothing more than one sides evidence being more persuasive by even just a little bit than the other. It is far less than the criminal standard which is “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”. It was for that reason that OJ S walked on the criminal charges and paid dearly in the civil case.
Also, there may be situations in which a third-party is responsible. They are not the people that actually committed the crime or attack but are those parties who may still have contributed or facilitated them. Some examples are hotels, motels and apartment owners with inadequate security. High schools, colleges or universities that fail to protect their students. Movie theaters or shopping malls with inadequate security or even child-care centers, schools or churches who do improper background checks allowing people to have access to others and cause harm.
More and more victims are seeking civil justice for their injuries than ever. This is an added deterrent to both third-parties as well as the attackers themselves. A victim of a criminal attack should consider taking civil action against the responsible parties in order to not only send a message to those who have caused harm but to also help compensate them for what often times can be a life changing event.
If you or a loved one have been a victim of a criminal attack and have been injured and would like to discuss your options to proceed with a civil claim for damages please contact me to discuss. We never charge for these consultations and take these cases on a contingency fee which means you only pay if and when there is a recovery. Sometimes, sending a message to a wrongdoer that affects their “pocketbook” has much more of an impact than the criminal justice system.
Please feel free to contact me in the Madison area at (608) 824-9540, in the Baraboo area at (608) 356-3961 or statewide at (866) 455-2993.