Can Injury Victims Prevail When the Drunk Drivers Who Injured Them Are Judged Not Guilty in Criminal Court?
Anyone who sustains injuries from the actions of a drunk driver must deal with the complexities of taking civil action against a person who also faces criminal charges. Since the two cases involve separate and distinct trials, however, the outcome of one trial does not affect the outcome of the other.
The moment drunk drivers cause property damage or even minor injuries, they face, at minimum, first degree misdemeanor charges. Once drunk drivers cause serious bodily injury to other individuals, they face felony charges under the Florida State Uniform Traffic Control laws. Even if the criminal proceedings take place prior to a civil action, criminal trial juries and civil trial juries use different criteria when deciding on the innocence or guilt of the defendant, as follows:
The reasonable doubt standard applies in criminal cases — Juries must find a criminal defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Under this high standard of presumed innocence, it is certainly possible for a drunk driver with a good defense lawyer to receive a not guilty verdict.
A preponderance of evidence standard applies in civil cases — This standard essentially means that juries who believe that the totality of the evidence points to a defendant’s guilt can rule in favor of the plaintiff, even if they have some degree of doubt.
On the one hand, a guilty verdict in a criminal trial can indicate that the evidence is very strong and potentially help the case of an injury victim. On the other hand, plaintiffs filing injury claims for DUI-related accidents do not need a guilty verdict to prevail in civil actions against drunk drivers or other parties whose negligent actions played a role in the crash.