Can I go to Jail Following a Personal Injury Case?

Personal injury cases come in all shapes and sizes.  However, many injured victims have similar concerns and questions.

One question we hear from time to time is whether the person who caused the injury can face jail time because of a personal injury case. The short answer is no. And that is because a personal injury case is a matter of civil law NOT criminal law (when someone is accused of violating a law).

Even if you lose your personal injury case you will not face jail time because that is a criminal penalty not a civil one.

When you file a lawsuit after suffering some sort of injury or harm you are asking a court or judge to determine that the other person was at fault. You seek damages (money) for the suffering you endured. If you and your lawyer are able to prove that another person harmed you then that person (the defendant) will be ordered to pay you money. On the flip side, if you are the one being sued, then you must pay out to the victim, but you will NOT face any jail time.

Now, here's where things can get tricky because a civil case can involve criminal activity.

In a criminal case, only government officials can charge people with criminal actions for breaking the law.  If your personal injury case involves a crime, prosecutors are the ones who need to decide whether or not to file charges against someone.

A great example of a civil case versus a criminal case is the infamous O.J. Simpson trial.  He was found not guilty of the murder of his ex-wife and her friend, but later faced a civil suit from the victims' families and was ordered to pay millions of dollars. That's because his actions implicated him for both a tort (wrongful death) and a crime (murder).

Most personal injury cases are based in negligence (carelessness), for which there is no criminal equivalent. However, if you were injured as a result of an intentional act, then there is a chance the person who injured you could also be prosecuted civilly.

Additionally, regardless of whether we're talking about the plaintiff or defendant, if someone involved in a lawsuit lies while under oath—either in an affidavit, during a deposition, or at trial—that act of lying constitutes perjury, which is a crime, and which can be prosecuted.

The short answer then is no, you won't go to jail following a personal injury case. The long answer is, maybe, depending on the circumstances of the case and whether or not a crime was involved.  In that case, criminal law penalties CAN include jail time, fines or probation.

If you've been injured but are not sure if your case involves civil or criminal issues give us a call at Pickard Parry Pfau.  Our experience can help you get the compensation or justice you deserve.