The difference between criminal negligence and civil negligence is one of “risks.” What is the risks attendant on the behavior of the actor, and how serious are the consequences of such behavior?
Civil Negligence and the Duty of Care
Tort or civil negligence is the failure of one person to act with “reasonable” care in his dealings with others so as not to cause injury or damage. Negligence is not intentional, it is an accident, and we all know that accidents will happen. However, to be awarded damages for injuries caused by any accident, you must prove that the individual or entity responsible for the accident:
- Owed you a “duty of care”;
- That they “breached that duty”;
- That their breach was the “cause of your injuries”; and
- That your injuries are “measurable by a monetary loss.”
Without all four elements, you may not be able to recover damages for your injuries.
Accidents that may fall under the category of “civil” negligence would be your simple auto accidents, or failure to secure your property from potential hazards such as wet floors when opening your doors for business and inviting guests or licensees to enter.
Criminal Negligence and a Disregard for the Risks Involved by Your Actions
Criminal negligence, on the other hand, occurs when an individual acts with such disregard or indifference to human life, such that he creates a risk of great bodily injury or death to those around him. With that said, criminal negligence falls short of intentional or reckless conduct. Intentional conduct means that the individual acted in such a way, knowing what the consequences of his actions would be, and intending their results. Reckless conduct is where the individual may be aware of the risks but does not care what the consequences of his actions may be.
An example of criminal negligence could be drinking that last glass of wine at the bar before driving home. If you are involved in a fatal accident on your way home, that could be construed by the courts as criminal negligence.
Plaintiff’s Rights and Legal Remedies for Both Criminal and Civil Negligence
In an action for civil negligence, if the plaintiff can prove by a “preponderance of the evidence,” that the defendant is responsible for his injuries, he may be entitled to a monetary judgment against defendant in an amount that will compensate him for his injuries. However, in a criminal negligence action, there may also be a criminal penalty involved in the case. By way of example, if an individual is charged with a criminally negligent homicide, they will face a criminal penalty that will include the possibility of a prison sentence if found guilty, but a civil action may also be brought against the defendant by the decedent’s loved ones for “wrongful death.”
There may be a fine line between criminal and simple negligence. During the course of one’s lifetime, there will be many times that we will act negligently and possibly cause accidents. Understanding the risks and how to avoid accidents may make a difference between being sued for negligence, and a charge of criminal negligence. If you are a victim of an accident as a result of the negligent actions of another, you will need the assistance of an experienced personal injury law attorney. Please contact us today, by phone at 1-877-363-7942, or take advantage of our online case evaluation form to schedule your initial case review.
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