Pennsylvania Civil vs. Criminal Cases: What’s the Difference and Which Do I Want to Pursue?

Pennsylvania law distinguishes between civil and criminal cases, each with its own set of rules, procedures, and penalties. Civil cases generally involve disputes between two parties over a matter of private rights, such as breach of contract, personal injury, or property disputes. In contrast, criminal cases are brought by the government against individuals who are accused of violating criminal laws, such as assault, theft, or drug offenses. 

While civil cases aim to provide compensation or enforce legal rights, criminal cases are designed to punish offenders and protect society from harm. If you are involved in a legal dispute in Pennsylvania, it is essential to seek the guidance of an experienced attorney. 

Spivak and Sakellariou is a trusted law firm with a proven track record of success in both civil and criminal cases, offering personalized attention and aggressive representation to their clients.

Civil Cases 

Civil cases in Pennsylvania are typically pursued by individuals or entities who believe that their legal rights have been violated or that they have suffered damages or losses as a result of someone else’s actions. The goal of a civil case is to seek compensation or enforce legal rights. Civil cases may involve disputes over issues such as breach of contract, personal injury, or property disputes. In Pennsylvania, a civil case can be initiated by filing a complaint in the county court of common pleas. 

The plaintiff must demonstrate that they have suffered harm or damages and that the defendant is responsible for the harm. During a civil case, both parties may present evidence, call witnesses, and make legal arguments to support their position. If the plaintiff prevails in a civil case, they may be awarded monetary damages, or the court may order specific performance or injunctive relief. The pursuit of civil cases in Pennsylvania is essential to protect individuals’ legal rights and ensure that those who cause harm are held accountable for their actions.

Criminal Cases 

Criminal cases in Pennsylvania are pursued by the government, typically represented by the district attorney’s office, and are brought against individuals who are accused of violating criminal laws, such as assault, theft, or drug offenses. The primary goal of a criminal case is to punish offenders and protect society from harm. 

Criminal cases in Pennsylvania are filed in the county where the alleged crime occurred and are prosecuted by the state. The burden of proof in a criminal case is much higher than in a civil case, as the prosecutor must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If found guilty, the defendant may face significant penalties, including imprisonment, fines, or probation. The pursuit of criminal cases in Pennsylvania is essential to maintain public safety and ensure that those who violate the law are held accountable for their actions.

Civil vs. Criminal, which is right for me?

Choosing between a civil or criminal case in Pennsylvania depends on the nature of the legal dispute and the type of relief sought. 

Civil cases are generally pursued when the dispute involves a private matter, such as a breach of contract or a personal injury, and the plaintiff seeks compensation or enforcement of legal rights. On the other hand, criminal cases are pursued when the dispute involves a violation of criminal laws, and the government seeks to punish offenders and protect society from harm. If you have been harmed, and your goal is to recover damages or enforce legal rights, a civil case may be the best option for you. 

However, if you have been accused of a crime, or if you believe that someone has committed a crime against you, a criminal case may be the best way to seek justice. It is always best to consult with an experienced attorney to help you determine which type of case is appropriate for your situation.

Examples of a Civil Case 

Reading up on laws can be murky and confusing. And after an accident you are often rattled, traumatized, and confused. We want to give you some examples to help you understand whether your case is civil or criminal. 

  • Breach of contract
  • Personal injury claims
  • Property disputes
  • Defamation and libel cases
  • Medical malpractice cases

Usually in a civil case injuries are relatively minor and both parties have cooperated in exchanging information. A civil case may be pursued in a more serious case but it is often also filed alongside a criminal case. This path of action ensures that the at-fault party not only receives a due punishment for their actions but also that the victim can collect the financial losses sustained due to the accident. 

Examples of a Criminal Case

  • DUI and traffic violations
  • Drug possession and trafficking
  • Assault and battery
  • Arson and vandalism

If you are in an accident, it is important to call 911 and get an officer to assess the situation. Sometimes a driver can be a danger to the community, and in those cases, the state or federal government may file a criminal case. This is not only important for you but also for anyone else who may come across this reckless driver.

What Can I Expect in a Trial?

Our accident attorneys are here to give you all the information you need to feel secure and safe in filing a lawsuit. We want to make this process as easy and painless as possible, you’ve suffered too much already. There are some specific factors in Pennsylvania that you should be aware of. 

“No-Fault” System  

Pennsylvania is a no-fault state, which means that when it comes to car accidents, drivers and passengers are generally required to seek compensation from their own insurance company, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. Under Pennsylvania law, drivers are required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, which covers medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages resulting from a car accident. In a Pennsylvania trial, whether it’s a civil or criminal case, the parties must present evidence and arguments to support their position. 

Economic and Non-Economic Damages

In a Pennsylvania trial, damages refer to the compensation awarded to a plaintiff in a civil case to compensate them for losses suffered as a result of the defendant’s actions. 

Damages can be classified as economic or non-economic. Economic damages refer to quantifiable losses, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. 

Non-economic damages refer to losses that are not easily quantifiable, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium. In Pennsylvania, there is no cap on economic damages in a civil trial. 

However, there is a cap on non-economic damages, which is currently set at $500,000 in most cases. In cases of catastrophic injury, such as a traumatic brain injury or paralysis, the cap may be lifted, and plaintiffs may be awarded a higher amount of non-economic damages. It’s important to consult with an experienced attorney who can help you understand the damages that may be available in your case and how to maximize your recovery.

Statute of Limitations 

The statute of limitations is a legal time limit within which a lawsuit must be filed in Pennsylvania. In other words, it sets the maximum amount of time after an event within which a lawsuit can be brought. The statute of limitations varies depending on the type of case, and failure to file a lawsuit within the prescribed time limit can result in the case being dismissed. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases, such as car accidents or slip-and-fall accidents, is two years from the date of the injury.

We’re Here to Help

At Spivak and Sakellariou, we specialize in assisting accident victims in recovering their rightful compensation. You don’t have to pay anything upfront if you decide to team up with us. Our fee will only be charged if we win your case, ensuring that you won’t be burdened by any further financial costs. We want to empower every victim to fight for their rights, without worrying about finances.

Our approach involves providing individual attention to all our clients with the aim of helping them regain financial and personal peace of mind following the stress of an accident. We are committed to learning all the details of your story and fighting for you, even if others have turned you away.

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