Do I Have a Case if a Police Runs a Red Light and Hits Me?

 In Auto Accidents

This is a sad story; a man was killed when a police officer crashed into his vehicle. The twist here is the man who was killed had the green light and was just driving through but the police officer had his siren and lights on when he was running the red. In the end, the state prosecutor decided not to file criminal charges against the officer stating that he (the officer) had the right of way since his siren and lights were on. Which brings up an interesting question, would someone like this man who was killed (or in this case, his loved ones) have a claim against that officer even though the state prosecutor decided not to file charges?

To answer that question, like most things in law, it depends on many factors. In Florida (and most of the United States) there are two types of court; civil and criminal. Civil court is when one or several individuals (or corporations) go against other individuals (or corporations), think a personal injury lawsuit or a divorce proceeding. Criminal court, on the other hand is for when the state goes against someone; think about any crime such as speeding or murder. It is not unheard of to end up in both civil and criminal court because of one incident. For example, someone could end up going to both criminal and civil court after they get into an accident. First, the state could charge them with a DUI or speeding, which they would have to go to criminal court for. Second, they could be sued by the drivers of the other vehicles for the injuries caused by the accident, which would be in civil court.

Just because you are not prosecuted or found “Not Guilty” in criminal court does not mean the same will occur in civil court.  Civil court and criminal court have different burdens of proof; meaning that in civil court you must show that more likely than not something occurred. In criminal you must show beyond a reasonable doubt that something occurred. This can be exemplified perfectly by the O.J. Simpson case where he was found not guilty in criminal court but held liable in civil court for the same act.

Whether you were involved in an accident and the at fault driver was declared not guilty in criminal court or just have a question in general about the law, call us at Lolo Legal and we will help clear things up for you, even if in the end you don’t have a case it is better to call and be certain.

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