Can a guilty plea be used in a personal injury claim?
Sometimes, an offender faces both criminal charges and a civil claim for the same conduct. For example, a drunk driver who causes an accident may face drunk driving charges as well as a civil claim for negligence arising from the accident. A person may face assault and battery charges that are also part of a personal injury claim for financial compensation. These cases may proceed through the justice system at the same time.
What happens if the defendant pleads guilty to criminal charges? Can the guilty plea be used against them later in the civil case? Our Philadelphia personal injury attorneys explain.
Can a guilty plea be used in a personal injury claim in Pennsylvania?
Yes, a guilty plea can be used in a personal injury claim in Pennsylvania. Pa. Code Rule 410 lists types of statements and case resolutions that cannot be used later in civil court. A plea of no contest cannot be used, for example. Statements made during plea negotiations are also exempt from use later in civil court.
However, a guilty plea can be used against the defendant. By making a plea, the defendant is admitting their guilt in open court. A Philadelphia personal injury attorney can use their statements as admissions in the later civil case.
Using a criminal case to your advantage in civil court
Even if the defendant doesn’t offer a guilty plea, there are ways that the ongoing criminal proceeding can be valuable in a personal injury claim. For example, the victim can watch as the state’s attorney interviews witnesses. Even the defendant may testify under oath during a hearing or trial.
These statements may be used to investigate the case as well as offered into court later if a witness needs to recall information or if they change their story. The victim has a chance to see how the jury responds to certain witnesses or information. While the victim is not the prosecutor in the criminal case, they can see the evidence presented in open court and prepare for their own hearing.
Bringing a personal injury claim if there are criminal charges
If the state chooses to bring a criminal charge against the offender, there are still important reasons to pursue a civil claim. The purpose of a personal injury claim is compensation for the victim. The state attorney controls the criminal matter. They decide whether to enter into a plea bargain and whether to dismiss the charges.
In a personal injury claim, the victim makes the decisions about when to accept a settlement to end the case. In addition, the burden of proof and even the elements to prove are different. A personal injury claim may have merit even if the criminal matter is unsuccessful.
Finding a personal injury attorney near me
If you are a victim, a personal injury attorney near me can help you fight for justice. They can help you determine how to use criminal proceedings to your advantage. Ultimately, your Philadelphia civil attorney can determine the best civil procedure and legal strategy to get justice for your personal injury claim.