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What’s the Difference Between Civil and Criminal Cases?

Our legal system is composed of two different types of cases, criminal and civil. From how they are prosecuted to the burden of proof, criminal and civil cases are very different.

Criminal actions are considered offenses against society as a whole, even though the crime may have been directed at one person. They are generally prosecuted by the state. The case is filed by the state and the victim is not named as a party in the case. A jury is used to determine the outcome of the matter.

Civil actions, on the other hand, are typically disputes between individuals or individuals and corporate or governmental organizations regarding the duties and responsibilities they owe one another. The wronged party files the case. Although civil cases are tried in front of juries in some instances, many are decided by a judge.

The standard of proof is vastly different. There are generally greater consequences in a criminal case (i.e. jail time), so it is harder to prove. The jury must be convinced “beyond reasonable doubt.” Civil cases have a lower standard of proof like “preponderance of evidence,” which means that the event in question more than likely occurred in a certain way.

There are more protections in place in a criminal trial, such as protection against illegal search and seizure guaranteed by the 4th Amendment. In order to assure a fair trial, the defendant is entitled to have an attorney present during all phases of the proceedings. If he or she cannot afford an attorney, the state must provide one. In civil cases, defendants must pay for an attorney or defend themselves.

In terms of punishment, jail time is a potential punishment in a criminal case, but in a civil case, punishment usually results in monetary damages or issuance of a court order to do or not do something.

 If you feel you have just cause to bring a civil case against an individual or organization, the best thing to do is to consult with an experienced civil attorney to discuss your case and the next steps in recovering damages.

How Contingency Fees Work in Personal Injury Cases

Many, if not most, personal injury attorneys work for their clients based on an agreement known as a contingency fee. It allows a person who has been injured to have legal representation even if they do not have the money to pay a lawyer at the beginning of the case.

There are no up-front fees. Instead the plaintiff pays the attorney a percentage of their settlement if they win the case. If the plaintiff loses, the attorney does not collect any fee for the work done on the case. That being said, the plaintiff may have to pay for the costs of the case, including costs for filing with the court, depositions and copies of medical reports, etc. Check with your attorney so that you have a full understanding of the costs you will have to pay in the event that you lose your case.

The basic premise of a contingency agreement is that you, as the plaintiff, will be out little or no upfront expenses. Clients do not pay legal fees unless they win and the lawyer receives a percentage of the award or settlement. Contingency fees are commonly used in cases when a plaintiff is seeking damages for a personal injury received in an accident or on the job. However, lawyers will not always accept a contingency fee arrangement; perhaps if they feel the case is not very strong or if there is some limit placed on the amount of the award by the state (such as a worker’s compensation case).

In some cases, the plaintiff may be able to negotiate a lower fee, but personal injury lawyers usually will not negotiate fees on a contingency case. Many states place limits on the amount of fees a law firm can collect. (InNew York, that amount is 1/3 of the settlement awarded.) Depending upon the contingency agreement, the plaintiff may or may not have to pay fees from the settlement.

Again, it is best to have full understanding of that from your attorney prior to signing the agreement. Before you sign a contingency fee agreement, ask questions to alleviate any concerns you may have. Your attorney will be happy to answer any questions and make you feel comfortable during the entire process. Make sure that you are comfortable with the firm and the attorneys who will be working on your case. As always, hiring an experienced personal injury attorney affords you the opportunity for a more favorable outcome.

Why Retaining Aggressive Personal Injury Lawyers is So Important

Under New York Law, attorneys for the plaintiff (the injured party) and defendant have the option of making a motion for summary judgment at any time during the course of the case. Summary judgment in negligence actions are appropriate where “no genuine issue of material fact exists.” In other words, where everyone involved in the accident agrees on the facts of the case, a judge may decide the case as a matter of law without the case going to trial.

When either party makes a motion for summary judgment, the court may deny the motion or grant the motion. If the defendant moves for summary judgment, and the court grants the motion, the entire case is dismissed. On the other hand, when a plaintiff moves for summary judgment and the court grant’s the motion, the plaintiff in essence, wins the case. The only issue then remaining is how much money the personal injury plaintiff is entitled to. If the case is not settled beforehand, a jury will decide how much money to award the plaintiff.

There are many reasons why NY Personal Injury Lawyers should take advantage of this great opportunity. By winning the case via motion for summary judgment:

  • The plaintiff and his or her attorney will save the time and expense of preparing for trial;
  • They will no longer risk losing the case at trial;
  • A jury will not be able to attribute any negligence to the plaintiff, who will therefore get the full amount of damages awarded; and
  • Whatever amount the jury awards the plaintiff at the trial on damages, he/she will receive an additional 9% interest of that award from the date that the summary judgment motion was granted and entered. (For example, if the trial takes place one year later, then for every $100,000 that the jury awards the plaintiff, an additional $9,000 will be added to that number.

Too often, New York Personal Injury Attorneys do not take advantage of this great weapon. Aggressive personal injury lawyers are necessary to get the most compensation for those who have been injured.

Today, the law firm of Isaacson, Schiowitz & Korson, LLP received a decision on one of their cases from the Supreme Court, Suffolk County which granted their motion for summary judgment. There, a 59 year old woman was shopping for groceries in the defendant’s supermarket, when she was struck by a U-boat carrying cases of merchandise that were stacked 6 feet high. In their motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff’s attorneys convinced the court that the defendant’s employee was using the U-boat improperly. They argued that had the defendant’s employee pulled the U-boat as he was trained to do, as opposed to blindly pushing it, this accident would not have occurred. The court agreed and granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment.

This decision now puts a lot of pressure on the defendant. Their choices are to either offer the plaintiff a settlement that would fully compensate her for the injuries and pain and suffering she sustained as a result of their negligence or take the case to trial knowing they will lose, the only question being, how much.

If you were involved in an accident, it is important to hire not only experienced legal counsel, but a law firm with aggressive attorneys who will do everything possible to get their clients top dollar. Make sure you have aggressive personal injury lawyers on your side.

A closer look at nursing home negligence

It seems that every other week, a story breaks in the media about negligence at a senior living facility, the most recent about a Colorado facility that lost a $3.2 million lawsuit when a man under their care died from bedsores.

Like many people, you may have an elderly relative, or you yourself may be in a nursing home, assisted living or other type of elderly care facility. Most of these businesses go to great strides to care for their residents, offering medical treatment, assistance with errands and medication, health and wellness consultations, and fellowship.

If you have a loved one in a senior facility, you should know and be on the lookout for telltale indications that the facility may be negligent.

Signs of nursing home negligence

  • Messy or disorganized living conditions
  • Lack of basic hygiene
  • Residents wandering unattended
  • Lack of care for existing medical problems
  • Unexplained or unexpected death of a resident
  • Unexplained injuries or explanations that don’t make sense
  • Frequent “illnesses”
  • They become withdrawn or non-communicative
  • Unusual or unexplained behavior
  • They become emotional or agitated easily
  • Rapid weight loss or gain
  • Unresponsiveness or dementia
  • Bedsores
  • Patient falling out of their bed

The most important thing you can do in this type of situation is to hire experienced legal representation. If litigation is necessary, the facility will have lawyers who will do everything possible to save their clients money. You will need an experienced nursing home negligence attorney who will advocate for your rights.

Hiring a malpractice attorney

If you’re the victim of medical malpractice, there is one thing you should know up front: Never sign anything presented by the doctor, the hospital or their attorneys, even if they’re offering what appears to be a fair settlement. They are operating in their own interests to make you and your case go away. Although their offer may look like a good settlement, there are issues to consider that a malpractice attorney will advise you about while guarding your interests. Any settlement agreement that you sign could preclude you from additional compensation down the road.

Your chances of a favorable outcome are improved by hiring a good malpractice attorney. Medical malpractice is a specialized field and the cases are complicated and risky, which means they’re also expensive. Invest the time in finding a good lawyer in your area who specializes in medical malpractice.

Researching malpractice attorneys

If you think you need to hire a malpractice attorney, start with some basic research.

  • Biographical information for the lawyers and their law firms. The Internet is a great place to start. Look at their websites to determine if they specialize in medical malpractice and if they defend the doctor or hospital or if they are plaintiff’s attorneys.
  • Use search engines to scour the Internet. A Google search will turn up articles the lawyer has written and a wealth of information about their cases.
  • If you already have a relationship with an attorney who practices other areas, ask for a reference. Lawyers know other lawyers.
  • Contact your state bar association or visit their Web site to find out if the lawyer is in good standing
  • Skim through your telephone directory to see if the firm advertises. But remember not to base your decision upon advertising.
  • Ask for references. If you can, talk to people who can tell you about lawyer’s performance. Be aware that privacy concerns may prevent the lawyer from sharing names of clients.
  • Check your local newspaper’s archives for any articles about court cases and settlements. You’ll probably be able to find the names of clients there.

If you’re presented with an initial settlement offer, before you sign anything, you need to know what you’re signing. They are offering you a settlement for a reason. Make sure you have an experienced malpractice attorney in your corner.