A criminal charge for negligence may result from a negligent act that causes personal injury. Such a charge can lead to a criminal conviction for a first or second-degree misdemeanor or felony. Under Florida law, a person can commit a misdemeanor in the second degree if he or she acts in a negligent manner and exposes another person to personal injury. In other words, a person need not actually inflict injury on another person to expose them to personal injury under this theory. A person commits a misdemeanor in the first degree if he or she acts in a negligent manner and causes personal injury to the other person. The first-degree misdemeanor for criminal negligence sounds like the more familiar “civil negligence,” however, criminal and civil negligence have a few important differences.
What is the difference between civil and criminal negligence in a personal injury case?
In civil lawsuits that involve the theory of civil negligence, the plaintiff will have to show that (i) the defendant had a duty of care; (ii) the defendant breached that duty of care; (iii) and that the breach of the duty caused the plaintiff to suffer damages (i.e., personal injury or property damage). When someone has committed civil negligence, that person is liable for any and all personal injury or property damage that was the actual and proximate cause of the negligence. For example, if someone slips and falls because of a slippery floor that has been negligently cleaned at a business, the business owner may be liable for the person’s severe resulting injuries based on the theory of civil negligence, regardless of the sensitivity of that particular person.
In criminal lawsuits that involve a theory of criminal negligence, on the other hand, a person must be unanimously found by the jury to have been “culpably negligent.” This theory has the potential to be more expansive than civil negligence if the act itself was so reckless that it deserves blame and criminal consequences—regardless of the existence of resulting harm. These situations usually concern a defendant engaged in extremely negligent behavior. Examples of criminal negligence in Florida include neglecting a child, leaving a firearm within a minor’s reach, firing a gun that was thought to be unloaded, driving while intoxicated, and causing an accident that resulted in death.
Importantly, civil negligence deal with a plaintiff who is seeking monetary compensation for economic and non-economic damages, whereas criminal negligence cases involve the state or federal government prosecuting a defendant for alleged criminal conduct.
Can a person face civil and criminal charges at the same time?
The short answer is yes. A person that causes severe damage because of their grossly negligent conduct may be criminally and civilly liable. Often, personal injury cases that are tried in civil court include a defendant who is also facing criminal charges. If someone is found to have been grossly negligent—by acting in an extremely reckless manner–and that person caused an accident, they could face civil and criminal penalties.
Have any of these situations applied to you? Contact us today.