A. Who is a party in the case?
In South Carolina, a criminal case is filed by a prosecutor. In other words, while you may be a victim in a criminal case, it is the state (aka-the prosecutor) who is the actual party to the case that files the criminal charges against the defendant. In a civil case, the injured party is the one filing the action as opposed to a prosecutor.
B. What are the goals in a criminal versus a civil case?
The overarching goal in personal injury cases is to compensate the victim for his or her injuries and to attempt to make the victim whole again. Conversely, the prosecutor’s goal in a criminal case is to ultimately seek justice, by looking at a multitude of factors, such as protecting society, deterrence and rehabilitation.
C. What is the burden of proof?
In a criminal case, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. There are typically two definitions judges in South Carolina use when giving jury instructions for beyond a reasonable doubt. The first is that reasonable doubt is the kind of doubt that would cause a reasonable person to hesitate to act. The second definition used is that proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that leaves you firmly convinced of a defendant’s guilt.
In a civil case, the burden of proof is lower than in criminal cases. In most civil actions, the injured party must prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, the injured party must prove the case by a more likely than not standard. This standard is often referred to as proving that there is a greater than 50% likelihood that the defendant caused the injury.
D. If I am a victim of a crime, should I get a civil attorney?
It is always wise to contact an experienced trial attorney if you have been injured by another party. A civil claim is the only way to seek the monetary relief you deserve for the injuries you have sustained. It is also important to note that, because the standard of proof is lower in civil claims, if the criminal defendant is not convicted in criminal court, that does not necessarily mean that you cannot prove your civil injury case. The facts of each case are unique and that is why it is essential to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to walk you through your case.