Hit-and-run Incident Illustrates Civil and Criminal Trial Issues

Fleeing the scene of an escalating argument, a driver injured two persons when he ran over them with his car. The incident happened in Minden on February 7, as reported by Jana Ryan. Local authorities believed the victims were merely bystanders and were not part of the argument. After brandishing a gun, the driver attempted to leave in his car, and he ran over the bystanders while trying to back away. The driver was later arrested on criminal charges of aggravated assault and aggravated battery stemming from the incident.

Events like this one often bring criminal charges against the person who injures another. However, the driver in this case may also be civilly liable to the injured victims; that is, in addition any criminal conviction, a court can hold him financially responsible for the injuries that resulted from his actions. To be held civilly, or financially, liable to a victim, generally a person’s actions must be the legal cause of the victim’s injury. The law does not even require that the person have intentionally injured a victim; a careless, or negligent, act may be sufficient to establish liability.

It is important to keep in mind, though, that criminal law and civil liability are administered very differently and that criminal convictions and civil remedies are distinct under Louisiana law. A conviction by a criminal court does not automatically ensure that a civil court will hold a convicted defendant financially liable for the injuries he caused. Nor will a person found innocent be guaranteed immunity from civil liability. Each type of court requires attorneys to establish different elements, and criminal courts require them to prove those elements with more certainty. This is true even if key words, such as “assault” and “battery,” seem to mean essentially the same thing in each court.

The crucial point to remember is that a person’s actions in one instance may result in both criminal and civil liability. The two are distinct arms of the legal system. The fact that one arm has administered its form of justice does not prevent the other arm from doing the same. If you have been injured by a person who was arrested for those actions, you may be entitled to financial compensation from that person as well.

Members of the Berniard Law Firm are always available to answer any questions you might have about your legal rights.