When Torts and Crimes Meet

December 31, 2012 / 12:00 am

When a person injures you the law calls it a “tort.” When a person breaks a law created by the legislature it is called a crime.

Most people who are harmed or injured when a crime is committed don’t realize that a tort has also been committed.

Because of this, you have the ability to sue the defendant even though they were also prosecuted for the crime. Thus when you are injured due to a drunk driver hitting your car you can sue for your personal injury.

Many personal injury attorneys rush in and file suit against the defendant while the criminal prosecution is ongoing. This is a mistake. By doing this the attorney has weakened the criminal case, and in turn weakened the civil case.

By filing a civil case, an opening is created for the defendant who can now attack the credibility of plaintiff. When the plaintiff testifies in the criminal case, the defense attorney will portray the plaintiff as being interested only in money. They will tell the jury that the plaintiff shaped their testimony to make the civil case better. If the criminal case falls apart, the civil case is weakened. In Pennsylvania, a criminal conviction for DUI is negligence per se in the civil case.

Its best to hire a personal injury attorney who is familiar with criminal law. Your attorney should work closely with the prosecutor and let them know that they will not file a civil case until the conclusion of the criminal case.

If the attorneys work closely they can often share information which will strengthen both cases. Many times the civil attorney can even get a statement from the defendant as part of a plea bargin in the criminal case.

The PA personal injury attorney should attend all criminal proceedings where they can interview other witnesses, gather information and maybe even listen as the defendant testifies.

By working together both cases are strengthened.