Ohio Personal Injury Lawsuits: How Does a “Not Guilty” Verdict Affect My Civil Case?

March 5, 2016

Recently, a driver involved in a local motor vehicle accident that left two bicyclists dead was found not guilty of criminal charges stemming from the incident. When a defendant is found not guilty in a criminal trial, though, that does not necessarily mean that defendant is free from civil liability for his or her actions.

Can I File a Personal Injury Suit Against Someone Who Was Found Not Guilty?

Under Ohio law, individuals who cause injury to others may be held accountable in criminal court, in civil court, or in both. The purpose of both the criminal courts and the civil courts is the same: justice for those who are wronged. While the criminal courts are generally concerned with punitive justice against the offender, the civil courts focus on compensating the injured party.

Under this system, then, a “not guilty” verdict in a criminal trial indicates that a defendant should not be subjected to punitive measures. However, it does not necessarily indicate that the injured party is undeserving of compensation from the defendant, his insurer, or another responsible third party.

Why Does the Law Allow Civil Lawsuits When a Criminal Verdict Has Already Been Rendered?

There are powerful reasons why Ohio and other states allow civil lawsuits to proceed despite a “not guilty” verdict in a related criminal trial. As we have explained previously, the standards of proof in criminal and civil trials are different. Criminal trials require that a case against a defendant be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but civil trials require that a case be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. Frequently, the evidence against a defendant in a criminal trial may not quite reach the threshold of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but may still far exceed the preponderance standard.

Additionally, the elements of a criminal charge vs. the elements of a tort claim do not typically align. Depending on the charges pursued by the prosecutor, the crime for which a defendant is found not guilty may involve drastically different elements than a tort claim based upon the same incident. This means that the issues examined and conclusions reached at the criminal trial may have limited bearing on a claim under Ohio’s negligence laws.

Ohio Personal Injury Lawsuits Should Be Handled by Experienced Attorneys

If you or a loved one were injured, contact an Ohio personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Regardless of whether the responsible party is charged with a crime, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages. Call Lowe Scott Fisher Co., LPA today for a free consultation.

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