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Can you sue someone who hurt you if the state doesn’t prosecute?

by | Feb 2, 2023 | Personal Injury

Maybe you were at a party where an argument started, and then someone hit you. They knocked out several of your teeth, and you have had to invest thousands of dollars in cosmetic dentistry to recover your previous appearance and function. Perhaps you were hurt in a car crash caused by someone drunk at the wheel.

There are numerous situations in which someone else did something unsafe or illegal and hurt you. You may wonder what rights you have after someone injures you in Texas. Especially if the incident involved potentially criminal conduct, you may mistakenly believe that your right to take action depends on what the state does.

Is criminal prosecution necessary for a personal injury lawsuit related to someone’s lawbreaking?

Criminal and civil law are completely separate

What happens in criminal court has minimal bearing on your rights in civil court. There are many reasons that a prosecutor may not have brought charges related to the incident in which you got hurt. There may simply be inadequate evidence to meet the burden of proof in criminal court.

A prosecutor would need to convince a judge or a jury that someone broke the law. Typically, they need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone committed a crime. That standard of proof can be very difficult to achieve in some cases.

Thankfully, the standard of evidence in civil court is actually lower. Plaintiffs typically only need to show that a preponderance of evidence supports their claim. Some families specifically pursue justice in the civil courts when prosecution is not successful. A civil judge can’t send someone to jail, but they can impose financial penalties for criminal activity and harm caused to others through negligence.

Prosecution doesn’t prevent a lawsuit either

Some people believe that the rule against double jeopardy or going to trial twice for one offense might prevent a lawsuit. If the state successfully convicts the other party of a crime, your pursuit of civil compensation will not trigger the double jeopardy rule because it does not involve the government prosecuting the defendant a second time.

Instead, it involves you, someone affected by their actions, making use of the civil code to pursue appropriate compensation. The guilty plea or conviction in criminal court could bolster your case, and any evidence used in criminal court could potentially also help in a civil claim.

Understanding why people pursue civil litigation can help those negatively affected by the behavior or negligence of another person or possibly a business.