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Can you sue someone who caused a crash for criminal acts?

On Behalf of | Oct 15, 2021 | Car Accidents |

When someone causes a car crash, they can totally change your life. If they don’t have good insurance coverage, you could be left with unpaid medical bills and property damage expenses. Even when they have good insurance, the lasting impact of your injuries could affect your career and earning potential for the rest of your life.

When insurance isn’t enough to cover all of your losses, a personal injury lawsuit could help reimburse you for medical bills, unearned income and car repair expenses. Taking someone to court requires proof that they were either negligent or that they engaged in wrongful acts that left you with losses.

If someone broke the law by driving while drunk or without a license, can you take them to civil court even if the state prosecuted them for the crash?

Your right to compensation is separate from the criminal case

If Missouri prosecutors decide they have a case based on the circumstances of the crash, they can charge the other driver with a criminal offense for getting behind the wheel after drinking or for driving without insurance coverage. That criminal case does not affect your civil right to compensation.

Some people think that suing a driver after a car crash might constitute Double Jeopardy, but that is not the case. Protection from Double Jeopardy under the Fifth Amendment only applies to criminal prosecution and not to the civil consequences of someone’s misconduct.

Not only can you still sue after the state prosecutes the other driver, but their conviction might help your case in civil court. You can potentially use the evidence or results from the criminal case to help strengthen your claim to compensation.

Civil justice can be as important as criminal justice

Holding someone criminally accountable for the impact of their bad decisions is important, but so is giving the victims of their behavior an opportunity for economic justice. You shouldn’t have to empty your savings account or go into debt to respond to someone else’s choices.

A civil lawsuit helps you limit your own financial losses caused by someone else’s misconduct. It can also help you feel vindicated, particularly if the criminal proceedings did not result in a conviction. Knowing your rights if you get hurt in a car wreck can help you make the right decisions afterward.