If you're looking for the best Rancho Cucamonga personal injury attorney, there are many things you have to consider, including what type of case you have (civil or criminal).
Civil court differs from criminal court in many key ways. Civil cases are cases where individuals or companies sue each other, generally for money damages or to stop some action. They are not about someone accused of breaking a criminal law or restricting someone's freedom by sending a defendant to jail.
Civil Litigation Proceedings Are Usually Complex
Due to the complexity of the laws and procedures involved in most civil proceedings, the professional experience and knowledge of a Rancho Cucamonga personal injury attorney is necessary to present or defend a case.
Common Types of Civil Cases
- General Civil Cases. A general civil case may involve suing someone for money. These disputes could include contracts, property damage, or an individual being injured by another, such as a personal injury claim or medical malpractice. These cases can be filed in limited jurisdiction (capping damages at $25,000) or unlimited jurisdiction court.
- Small Claims Cases. These involve legal actions between individuals or companies for up to $2,500 to $10,000. No one is allowed to be represented by a lawyer in a small claims court trial. These cases are generally streamlined and are simpler than a general civil case. These cases involve people suing for money as well in topics similar to General Civil Cases.
- Family Law Cases. Divorce, child support, and child custody cases may go to trial if the parties involved are unable to agree about divorce, child custody, or asset distribution. Adoption cases go through the Family Law court system.
- Landlord and Tenant Cases. These cases involve disputes between a landlord and a tenant. They may involve a landlord trying to evict a tenant from a rental unit, or a tenant suing for issues of habitability. A tenant may also attempt to recover a security deposit from a former landlord who is wrongfully withholding the tenant's money.
- Probate Cases. These cases include estate matters for those who have died, conservatorships for people who cannot care for themselves or their finances independently, or providing approval of contol over finances for a child. Trials can result when two sides dispute about the proper distribution of an estate or a contest involving a will or trust.
Differences Between Civil Trials and Criminal Trials
- Civil Trials Don't Involve Court-Appointed Lawyers in Most Cases. A person charged with a criminal offense has the right to a court-appointed lawyer, if the defendant cannot afford one. The Courts do not appoint a lawyer for someone involved in a civil dispute. Parties generally need to hire their own civil attorneys or represent themselves in the case. It is highly recommended that you consult a civil trial attorney to see if you actually need an attorney to help you with your case. According to our Rancho Cucamonga personal injury attorney, if you can't afford a lawyer, you may be able to get some assistance through a local legal aid clinic or sometimes a lawyer will represent a client pro bono (free of charge).
- Civil Cases Tried by a Jury Don't Have to Be Unanimous. California civil and criminal jury trials generally have 12 jury members responsible to make the decisions about who is right or wrong, or who is going to win in the dispute. Criminal cases require the decision to be unanimous, all 12 jurors must agree. In civil cases, however, only 9 of the 12 people need to agree on the decision to reach a verdict.
Standard of Proof in Civil Cases vs. Criminal Trials
The standard of proof in a civil case is a "preponderance of the evidence." After considering each side's version of the facts, a jury determines if one side's version is more likely to be true than the other. It has nothing to do with how much evidence one side presents over the other side's amount of evidence. It means one side is more believable than the other. If the plaintiff has established the evidence to be more likely true in favor of the plaintiff, then the plaintiff should win. If the plaintiff has not been able to show the facts support the plaintiff's version, then the defendant wins.
Some civil cases use the standard of "clear and convincing evidence" to reach a decision. You need to prove that your version of the facts is reasonably sure to win your case. That standard is generally reserved for situations where the defendant is subject to punitive damages or exemplary damages.
This standard of proof is much lower than in a criminal case. According to our Rancho Cucamonga personal injury attorney, in that type of trial, the state must prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Roles in a Personal Injury Civil Trial
- Plaintiff. The plaintiff in a personal injury civil trial is the injured person or family members of a deceased person. The plaintiff may also be the injured person's spouse or minor children, or other family members who rely on the injured person for financial or emotional support. These family members may include parents, grandparents, siblings, and others.
- Defendant. A defendant is a person sued by a plaintiff. The plaintiff alleges the defendant is responsible for causing them harm. The defendant can be an individual or a company. There can be multiple defendants in a single case if multiple people or companies caused the harm.
- Plaintiff's Attorney. The plaintiff's attorney represents the plaintiff's legal interests in court. It is up to the plaintiff to prove that their injuries were due to the defendant's negligence. The plaintiff's attorney is there to put together and present the evidence to convince the jury that the defendant is responsible for the injuries and how much the defendant should pay to the plaintiff for those injuries.
- Defendant's Attorney. The defendant's attorney represents the defendant's legal interests in court. The defendant has the right to defend themselves against the allegations made by the plaintiff. The defendant's attorney can put up arguments and present evidence that the defendant is not responsible for the harm done to the plaintiff or the amount of the harm is not as much as the plaintiff claims.
- Judge. The judge keeps order as the trial proceeds. A judge makes rulings during the trial and instructs the jury to ensure that the evidence presented correctly applies to the law. At the end of a case, the judge enters a judgment based on the jury's decision (if it's a jury trial) or their own decision if the case is tried without a jury.
- Jury. The jury listens to all the evidence presented in the personal injury civil trial. It must then determines the facts and the facts apply to the law based on the judge's instructions. Each side offers its version of what occurred and what should happen between the plaintiff and defendant. The jury decides which one has the best version to support its claims. If the jury decides the plaintiff provide the case, then the jury decides how much money the plaintiff should receive for the injuries suffered.
- Witness. A witness testifies what they saw, heard, or felt during a particular time. The plaintiff and defendant's attorney will each have the opportunity to ask the witness questions to obtain information from the witness to clarify that person's testimony. Some witnesses are expert witnesses and they will render opinions about certain issues, such as, how the injury causing event occurred, the relationship of the injury to the defendant's negligence, medical issues or other matters outside the normal understanding of an individual juror.
- Court Reporter. A court reporter records all the words spoken during the trial so there will be an accurate record of the proceeding. If a jury needs testimony read back during their deliberations, the court reporter will read the questions and answers given to help the jury remember what was said. Also, the court reporter's transcript is useful for an appeal if one is necessary.
Seek Help From the Best Rancho Cucamonga Personal Injury Attorney in California
Our knowledgeable and experienced Rancho Cucamonga personal injury attorney may be able to help you fight for and win the fair compensation you deserve. If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident due to someone else's negligence, contact us today at (909) 481-0100 or use our online contact form to schedule an appointment for a free initial case consultation.