Can You File a Civil Lawsuit While a Criminal Case is Ongoing?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Marc Lenahan with Lenahan Law Firm.
There is a common misconception that a civil lawsuit cannot begin until a criminal trial has concluded; however, this simply isn’t the case. In fact, considering how long it often takes to collect the necessary evidence, build a case, and file the claim, it’s recommended to get started as soon as possible.
Civil courts and criminal courts are different arenas, and the type of claims filed, damages sought, and attorneys who represent the cases heard there differ accordingly. In some scenarios, a case may be eligible to be heard in both civil and criminal court; this is typically true in cases where one person’s illegal actions led to serious harm for the victim, such as violent crime, fraud, and more.
Anyone who has suffered from the illegal conduct of another party may be eligible to file a civil lawsuit.
Civil personal injury lawsuits focus on the damages suffered by a victim rather than on punishing the wrongdoer for their conduct. This is actually good news, because it typically results in much broader and more comprehensive compensation at the conclusion of a successful trial, and may even involve punitive damages, which are intended as a sort of punishment even if they do not carry the same penalties as can be assigned in a criminal trial.
Civil personal injury lawsuits are represented by civil personal injury lawyers who specialize in understanding and caring for their client’s injuries, life changes, and resulting damages both financial and emotional. The prosecutors that handle criminal cases, however, represent the state and are not typically focused on the wellbeing of the victim, though they may be able to obtain a small amount of compensation depending on the situation.
You don’t have to wait for the criminal trial to conclude to file a civil claim.
If you have suffered from the criminal conduct of another party, it’s important to talk to a personal injury lawyer specializing in crime victim advocacy right away. These attorneys understand the toll that harmful criminal actions can take on a victim, and can begin providing immediate support and resources while investigating the viability of your claim.
Additionally, personal injury lawyers typically offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis, which means clients only pay for their services if and when their case is won. However, the process of finding and collecting the necessary evidence can take time, and each case will have its own statute of limitations or time period attached to it; after the statute of limitations passes, the injured party will no longer be eligible to seek a recovery in court. This is why it is so important to reach out to an attorney the moment you suspect you may be eligible to file a claim. While criminal trials play an important role in the justice system, civil trials are equally important, particularly to the recovery of the injured party.
Every state has its own crime victim compensation program.
It may also help to note that every state has its own government-sponsored program designed to offer quick compensation to crime victims and their families to help with some of the immediate expenses. While the compensation that can be sought in a civil personal injury lawsuit may far exceed this initial amount, it can take years for the money from the verdict to arrive in your bank account. Until then, crime victims can seek limited aid for medical and dental bills, counseling costs, funeral and burial expenses, and even support for lost wages.
An experienced personal injury attorney with a specialization in crime victims should be able to direct you to your state’s program, and even help you apply if you have any questions. To learn more about your state’s crime victim compensation program, visit the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards.
To learn more about filing a civil lawsuit while a criminal case is ongoing, or to learn about your options for recovery as a crime victim, reach out to a crime victim personal injury attorney.