How Car Crashes Result in Criminal and Civil Cases

Most car crashes result in civil cases. However, car accidents can also result in criminal charges. If you cause a car accident and injure another person, you could face financial penalties in civil court.

You could also face charges in criminal court if your conduct in causing the accident broke the law. An experienced defense attorney can help defend your rights if you find yourself in this situation.

What Is the Difference Between a Civil Case and a Criminal Case for a Car Accident?

For example, Ohio tort laws hold a party responsible for their actions when their conduct causes harm or injury to another person. Therefore, you could be financially liable for an accident victim’s economic damages (i.e., medical bills, property damages, lost wages, and more). You could also be liable for the person’s non-economic damages (i.e., pain and suffering).

In a civil case, the accident victim sues you for damages. The burden of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence. The jury must believe there is a more than 50% chance you caused the accident that resulted in the victim’s injuries.

You could also be charged with a crime related to a car accident. Instead of the person suing you for damages, the government accuses you of unlawful conduct. The case is heard in criminal court before a judge or jury. The burden of proof is higher in a criminal case.

In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove all elements of the criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt. While a jury in a civil case can have some doubt and still find in favor of the injured party, the jury in a criminal case cannot convict the defendant if they have a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.

Criminal convictions can result in financial penalties (i.e., fines). However, criminal penalties can also include jail time, probation, and more.

What Crimes Are Associated With Car Crashes?

Many criminal charges could arise from a car accident. Examples of criminal offenses related to car crashes include:

Driving Under the Influence

DUI accidents can result in catastrophic injuries and deaths for victims. If you are intoxicated when you cause a car accident, you could be charged with driving under the influence (also referred to as OVI in Ohio). The penalties for DUI include jail time, fines, license suspension, probation, and driver intervention programs.

The penalties for DUI increase if someone is injured or killed in the accident. Causing injuries while you were driving under the influence is considered an aggravating factor. Judges may impose harsher sentences. Furthermore, you could face additional criminal charges for a DUI accident that results in severe injuries or death.

Causing a Death Using a Vehicle

Ohio has several criminal statutes related to injuries and deaths caused by operating motor vehicles, including aggravated vehicular assault (OCR §2903.08) and aggravated vehicular homicide/manslaughter (ORC §2903.06).

The charges range from misdemeanors to felonies, depending on the facts of the case. Regardless of the charge, you could face significant time in jail, fines, license suspension, and other penalties. Aggravating factors could increase the charges and the penalties.

Hit and Run Accidents

Ohio Revised Code §4549.02 requires that you stop and provide the required identification information if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident. The penalties for a hit and run accident depend on the level of damage. Generally, a property damage-only car crash is a first-degree misdemeanor resulting in up to six months in jail, a maximum fine of $500, and a suspended driver’s license.

However, if a hit and run car accident involves injuries or death, the charges increase to a felony. Severe injuries are a fourth-degree felony that could result in one year in jail plus a $2,500 fine. Hit and run accidents that cause a fatality increase the charge to a third degree, which could result in a five-year prison term and a $10,000 fine.

A Lawyer Can Help You Understand Your Legal Rights and Options

Being involved in a car accident can be overwhelming. You could be sued for significant financial damages. However, if you have been charged with criminal offenses related to a car accident, you could also lose your freedom.

The best way to protect your rights after a car accident is to talk with an attorney. Most lawyers in this area of the law offer free initial consultations to review your case as well.

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