Feb 20, 2019 Last Updated 3:19 PM, Oct 3, 2017

Differences between Criminal and Civil Trials


Nearly two years ago, a horrific accident tragically took the lives of four people and severely injured one other individual. The collision quickly became infamous, capturing the attention of local and national news stations.

An All Too Common Story

A youth with a troubled history of misbehavior was out driving with several friends in his father’s truck, getting into mischief and disregarding the law. It was reported that he had been using different prescription medications that night as well as consuming alcohol.

While speeding down the dark road, the truck soon approached an ordinary scene: A woman’s SUV had stalled and two other vehicles had stopped to assist her. A local youth minister, a mother, and her daughter had all exited their vehicles in order to assist the stranded motorist.

As the teenager approached the scene on that rural road, he swerved off the street, colliding with the SUV. The woman who’s SUV had stalled, and the kind people who had tried to help her, died tragically that night. A passenger in the youth’s truck received a severe brain injury, but survived.

Affluenza Defense

Because of the teen’s troubled background, and life of economic privilege, people were concerned that the criminal trial against the youth would result in a light sentence.

Further aggravating public outrage, a psychologist testified in defense of the youth, saying that the youth suffered from “affluenza”. Alluding to the idea of a “disease that strikes the affluent”, the psychologist said that the boy’s parents had taught him that wealth buys privilege, and this lesson had prevented the youth from understanding the consequences of his bad behavior. Some people have called it the “spoiled brat” defense.

At the end of the criminal trial, the judge sentenced the drunk driving youth to 10 years of probation, and he was sent to a rehabilitation facility for treatment. There was a great deal of public outrage.

The criminal trial ended, but civil trials continue on.

Criminal v. Civil Trials

There is a valuable lesson in the terrible tragedy that occurred on that dark day. The legal system regards criminal trials and civil trials as entirely separate from one another. Even though the youth received probation for the charges of intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault, still our legal system provides another opportunity for some form of justice.

The families of the departed victims, and the individual who survived with severe injuries, have all filed civil lawsuits, seeking damages for their suffering. They have sued the youth, and enjoined his parents in the process.

Our system of justice treats criminal suits filed by the government separately from civil suits filed by individuals. This creates a situation where people can still try to seek some form of justice, even when the criminal case delivers a verdict that seems to misalign with the circumstances.

Wrongful Death Compensation

When you are injured in an auto accident, you can seek justice in the form of compensation for your pain and losses. Cases involving injury and death are quite grim, but you should be prepared to assert your rights. It is best to seek advice from a determined attorney with experience in auto accidents and injury cases. At the firm of Godsey Martin, we use our experience to assess your case and provide you with your legal options.

If you have been hit and hurt as the result of someone’s negligence while driving, or have lost a loved one, please take a moment to fill out our free case evaluation form or call our office at 877-IGOTHIT.

David Godsey

“After working 8 years as an Insurance Adjuster and Claims Manager, I had a front row seat witnessing how ‘Big Insurance Companies’ took advantage those who made claims. I was involved in a process that was intentionally designed to pay people far less than what they were entitled to under the law. I was trained to prey on the claimant’s inexperience, lack of knowledge, and desire to quickly resolve claims to achieve saving the insurance company millions of dollars on an annual basis. I made people feel as if I was on their side, while simultaneously paying them thousands of dollars less than they should’ve received.

Eventually, I developed a feeling of guilt. I quickly noticed that the victims I came into contact with were more than just claim numbers; they were members of our community that needed a voice to correct the injustices they were enduring on a daily basis. I became committed to being that voice.”


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