How Insurance Companies View Criminal Acts in Personal Injury Claims

There are a number of different types of criminal acts that can lead to a victim being injured by a defendant. In a personal injury case, these offenses are typically considered assault and battery.

Burden of Proof Varies in Criminal and Civil Cases

The burden of proof requirement for criminal cases is usually required to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest burden of proof which concludes that no other logical explanation can come from the facts except that the defendant committed the act in question. This can be a very high standard to meet, which can make recover difficult for the plaintiff.

In a civil case, however, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence. In layman’s terms, there needs to be just enough evidence to make it more probable than not that the facts that the injured party is seeking to prove are true. Because this standard is much lower than the burden of proof required in a criminal case, some claimants may chose to pursue a civil claim against the defendant than a civil claim.

Criminal defendants are often not in a good financial situation to pay for a judgment for damages. Frequently, criminal defendants spend the limited resources that they have available to pay for their attorney fees, court costs, and fines assessed upon them when they are convicted. Furthermore, criminal defendants typically are unemployed as a result of their criminal actions, as well as afterwards if they were incarcerated.

Resultantly, most criminal defendants are deemed “uncollectable,” meaning even if you reached a settlement or secure a judgment against them there is little or nothing to collect. Few attorneys are willing to put in the financial backing and time into pursuing a lawsuit against someone they feel is uncollectable.

Insurance Companies and Intentional Torts

In situations involving injuries as a result of intentional torts, insurance policies also include exclusions that provide the insurance company is not liable to cover their client in the event they commit an intentional or criminal act. Regardless of the amount of coverage the defendant had, if the insurance company finds the act was intentional or criminal, the coverage will likely not apply. An exclusion that may present itself is when the defendant is a drunk driver. If the defendant carries auto insurance, insurance companies generally cannot escape liability when they client was driving drunk.

In some scenarios, it is not sensible to bring a personal injury lawsuit against a defendant that appears to be uncollectable. However, they may be other resources that the injured party may have to help pay for the incurred damages. In Washington State, a victim of a crime may apply for funding through Crime Victims Compensation. This will help cover of the medical expenses incurred if they were a victim of a crime. Similarly, if you were driving while the incident happened, you may be able to pursue an uninsured motorist claim (UM/UIM).

Regardless of how the personal injury occurred, the injured party should always contact an experienced personal injury attorney for a free legal consultation. There may be additional sources of recovery and speaking with an attorney can help get your questions answered.

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