Criminal charges stemming from an automobile accident can have a significant impact on the direction of a personal injury lawsuit. When a defendant is convicted of criminal offenses including drunk driving, reckless driving, etc., statutes allow the plaintiff to pursue punitive damages. This can increase the potential compensation plaintiffs can receive to help them recover from their injuries following an automobile accident.
Drugs and Alcohol
Alcohol and drug charges are the most common types of criminal behaviors that affect civil lawsuits involving car accidents in Illinois. Individuals who are struck and injured by a drunk or drug impaired driver can pursue punitive damages that are intended to punish the offender for their reckless behavior. This is done in the hopes of deterring repeat behavior by the offender.
Evidence that can be used to obtain a conviction for drunk or drugged driving can include the results from blood tests, eyewitness statements, physical evidence such as empty syringes or bottles, etc. This evidence can also be used when pursuing a civil claim against a defendant.
Wait and See
Plaintiffs must wait until a criminal case concludes before pursuing a civil claim. In many cases, it makes it easier and can lead to a faster resolution of the civil claim. If a civil case is filed prior to the filing of a criminal case, the courts will often stay the civil claim until the criminal case concludes. That is because the individual is already convicted of the crime and there is no doubt remaining that their actions were responsible for the damages sustained by the plaintiff.
However, that doesn’t mean that evidence collection, treatment, etc., should be delayed. That is because evidence has a short shelf-life and it is crucial to gather everything as quickly as possible. This includes eyewitness statements, photographs/video, medical records, etc.
The sooner a plaintiff starts the process of evidence gathering, the better the outcome of the personal injury lawsuit. Early evidence collection reduces the possibility that evidence will get lost or destroyed and it also makes it easier to track down eyewitnesses while their memory of events is fresh. Finally, any evidence used by a prosecutor in the criminal case to obtain the conviction can be used in a civil case. However, this requires a judges ruling before the evidence can be presented in the civil case.