When someone’s negligence causes injury to another, victims can pursue compensation. Negligence is generally understood as the failure to use reasonable care when one was required to do so. In some cases, injury to another is the result of a criminal act. On the road, some criminal acts also amount to negligence, though the criminal and civil cases will be handled by the separate courts, respectively.
The primary purpose of a criminal court is to attain justice for the state (on behalf of the victim). The purpose of civil court is to ascertain whether one is owed compensation, and if so, determine how much is necessary to make the victim “whole.” Restitution to the victim is not the primary purpose of the criminal justice system – but it can be a consideration for certain crimes. The impact this will have on a pending civil case should be discussed with an experienced injury attorney in Cape Coral.
F.S. 775.089 holds that restitution can be ordered by the court (in addition to any punishment) for:
- Damages or losses caused directly or indirectly by defendant’s offense;
- Damages or losses related to the defendant’s criminal episode.
Restitution could be monetary or non-monetary, and course make full payment of restitution a condition of probation. Victims are anyone who has suffered property damage/ loss, monetary expense, physical injury or death as a direct or indirect result of defendant’s offense or criminal episode.
A recent case of restitution following a car accident was weighed by the Vermont Supreme Court, which considered whether the lost wages of a husband/ vehicle owner was directly caused by the gross negligence of another driver who totaled his vehicle in a car accident. The husband was not in the vehicle at the time. His wife was driving.
According to court records, the 2015 crash occurred when defendant crossed the center line and crashed into an oncoming car driven by vehicle owner’s wife. The couple’s children were also in the car. The family had been on their way to vacation, but husband stayed behind to work. He left work early once he was informed of the crash, and then lost the full weekend’s worth of work, in total amounting to about 30 lost hours, which translated to $830 in lost wages.
The criminal trial court ordered defendant, who pleaded no contest to grossly negligent operation of a vehicle, to pay the husband $830 in restitution. The court reasoned husband was a victim because he was the joint owner of the vehicle and husband’s lost wages were directly caused by defendant’s crime because he had to take off work to deal with matters related to the accident.
Defendant appealed this order, arguing the husband wasn’t technically a “victim” of defendant’s crimes. Prosecutors countered that husband’s reasonable actions taken in response to the natural and probable consequences of a crime are recoverable through restitution.
The state supreme court ultimately ruled even if husband was a victim under the statute definition, the loss of his wages weren’t the direct result of defendant’s crime and therefore fell outside the scope of the state’s restitution law. (Note that Florida allows for recovery of both direct and indirect losses.) The court declined to adopt a “but-for” standard of causation.
Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.
Vermont v. Baker, October 2017, Vermont Supreme Court
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Company UIM Benefits Affirmed in Rear-End Collision Case, Oct. 25, 2017, Cape Coral Car Accident Lawyer Blog