A very common question that arises when legal discussions come about is what the differences are between civil and criminal legal cases. And, truly, this is a good question. For those unfamiliar with the legal system wondering where a civil case applies and where a criminal case applies and the difference between the two is absolutely valid.

Our Kingston civil litigation attorneys at the O’Donnell Law Offices can answer this question.

Civil Versus Criminal Law

When a person has violated the state and federal laws, they may have done so in a criminal manner. Criminal violations can include battery and assault, homicide, vandalism, theft, and more. By contrast, when a person violates federal or state laws in a civil manner, these actions are still unlawful but the repercussions and implications of such actions are much different than criminal violations. Examples of civil violations may be car accidents caused by driver negligence, medical malpractice, or product defect injuries.

In both civil and criminal cases, there is the defendant who is the person accused of certain actions and the plaintiff or the party bringing the case. Criminal cases will have a state prosecutor assigned and defendants will need a criminal defense lawyer while in a civil case, both parties can choose their own civil litigation attorney.

In a criminal case, the ultimate goal of a legal proceeding is to determine if a defendant did or did not commit a crime. When a guilty verdict is an outcome, punishment by means of fines, community service, jail time, and other punitive measures result. The bar for guilty versus not guilty in these cases is very high. Jurors must believe that a defendant committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Basically, this means that there is almost no other alternative that exists, and it is very clear the defendant could be the only party that committed such crimes they are accused of. When a guilty verdict is rendered punishment is decided and there can be appeals to such a verdict. When a not guilty verdict is passed down then the defendant walks free and does not face punitive repercussions by the state.

In civil cases, punitive repercussions are not the main objective. Financial compensation for losses is. However, there can be a punitive damage component of a civil case. Although these situations are rare, punitive damages that are awarded still nevertheless exist. In a civil case, the bar for establishing liability is much lower than in a criminal case. Here, only the belief that the defendant likely was responsible for harming the plaintiff and causing their damages is necessary. Plaintiffs that are successful with a civil suit against a negligent party can obtain some amount of financial compensation for their losses. When they lose their case, they walk away with no financial compensation but they too, can appeal a decision.

Speak to a Personal Injury Attorney Today 

If you suffered harm from a civil situation in Pennsylvania, then the  personal injury lawyers at O’Donnell Law Offices can help. There is a limited time to file a civil legal claim so do not delay. Call the personal injury attorneys at O’Donnell Law Offices, serving clients in Kingston, Wilkes Barre, Hazleton, and Pittston to schedule a free consultation today at (570) 821-5717.



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