Anyone accused of being at fault for an auto accident should have a good lawyer to help protect their interests. But if you face both criminal and civil trials, should you just rely on your criminal defense lawyer? The answer is often no, and here are three reasons why.
1. Your Attorney Should Focus
Criminal charges related to an auto accident are a serious matter, and you want your defense attorney to focus on defending you to their best ability. In many cases, you will also deal with the early stages of civil lawsuits at the same time. Don't let these overlapping priorities interfere with each other, robbing you of the best defense possible in both complicated trials.
2. Negotiations Are Different
Both civil and criminal cases often settle out of court. However, the approach to those settlement or plea agreements should be different. During a plea bargain, for instance, your lawyer will be keenly aware that whatever you agree to could affect your freedom, your future job prospects, your ability to drive, and your finances.
A civil lawsuit settlement is often focused on money or reputation — that of both sides. The stakes are different, the time frames are different, and the reasons to settle are different, so therefore, the legal approach should be different.
3. Trials Have Distinct Rules
While the basic outline of a trial by jury is largely similar whether it's civil or criminal, many of the details differ. You have certain rights as a criminal defendant, such as the right against incriminating yourself, that you don't enjoy as a civil litigant.
The burdens of proof are also very different. Prosecutors must reach a higher standard of proof, usually referred to as being beyond a reasonable doubt. Juries usually must reach this decision in unanimous agreement. But a civil personal injury case is likely to only need the plaintiff to prove something through a preponderance of evidence or that it is more likely to be true than not.
Finally, your rights in pre-trial and post-trial activities are different. The prosecutors cannot generally appeal a verdict in your favor, but a plaintiff can do so. You may also appeal a loss on different legal grounds and seek to exclude different types of evidence in both types of trial.
Where to Start
If you face the prospect of more than one type of trial, you need the best help you can get. Make an appointment with a car accident law firm today to learn more about how these cases affect one another and you.