Differences Between Criminal Negligence and Civil Negligence

If you are injured in an accident, it is important to understand the difference between criminal negligence and civil negligence. You might assume just because a driver or other party is charged with a crime that you automatically receive compensation for your injuries. This assumption is a dangerous misconception that can hurt your chances of recovery for an accident claim because you must take steps to protect your civil rights, which are much different from the steps law enforcement takes to prosecute criminal cases.

To learn about the differences between these two types of negligence, it helps to have a basic understanding of each area of law.

What is Criminal Law?

Canada’s Criminal Code was established in 1892. The Code lists thousands of criminal offenses, the elements the state must prove for a conviction, and the punishment for a criminal conviction. Criminal law applies to cases in which a party causes intentional harm to another person or another person’s property. A reckless disregard for the safety of others (i.e. drunk driving) or the neglect of a duty to protect others from harm can also constitute a crime.

Even though the crime may be limited to damage to property or injury to a specific person, it is in the best interest of society as a whole to punish those who break the law. When parties break the law, these offenses threaten the security and safety of all citizens.

What is Civil Law?

Civil law applies to disputes between private parties, such as contract disputes, property disputes, family law, and employment disputes. Civil law also applies when a party sustains injury because of the reckless or negligent acts of another party. For example, if another driver causes an injury because he was speeding, civil law applies to the claim between the parties for damages sustained in the accident. Slip and fall, medical malpractice, motor vehicle accident, wrongful death, premises liability, and product liability claims fall under civil law.

When a party is injured or has a dispute, the party can file an action with the court to claim damages or other remedies. The civil courts in Canada have jurisdiction over cases filed pursuant to civil law.

Differences Between the Two Areas of Law

There are several distinct differences in how each of the areas of law view and handle negligence.

  • Standard of Proof — The standard of proof for negligence claims in criminal law versus civil law is In a criminal case, the standard of proof is higher and requires the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. Civil cases are provenby a balance of probabilities where the judge or jury decides whether it is more than likely that the party committed the offense that caused the injury.
  • Standard of Care — The deviation in the standard of care is different in criminal cases and civil cases. For instance, the driver of a vehicle is expected to use reasonable care to avoid causing an accident. However, a gross deviation from the standard of care may result in the driver being charged with a crime (e. reckless driving, drunk driving, etc.).
  • Parties Involved in the Case — A civil claim involves two or more private parties. In a premises liability (slip and fall) claim, the parties involved might be the victim, store operator, and landlord. In a criminal case, the case is prosecuted by the government against a private party. If you are a victim in a criminal case, you may be required to testify as a witness but you are not a party to the case nor do you have control over the outcome of the case.
  • Different Penalties — In a criminal case, the law states the potential penalties for a guilty verdict, including fines, incarceration, probation, and restitution. For civil cases, the consequences are different. Defendants in civil cases can be sued for compensation for damages including lost wages, medical costs, property damage, physical pain, and emotional suffering.

Get Help from an Ontario Personal Injury Lawyer

The laws governing accident claims in Canada can be complex. The team of lawyers at Diamond and Diamond can help you seek justice for the negligent acts of another party. Call 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now or request a free consultation.

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