Staying Calm In Court

Can You Sue For Personal Injury If You're Facing Criminal Charges From The Incident?

If you've suffered the misfortune of being injured by someone else, you may be mulling over your legal options -- including the filing of a personal injury lawsuit. While this can often be a relatively uncomplicated matter if you're involved in a two-person auto accident or other straightforward incident, you'll find yourself facing much more of an uphill battle if you were engaged in criminal conduct when the injury took place. However, being charged with an ordinance violation, infraction, misdemeanor, or even felony won't necessarily prevent you from being able to file a personal injury lawsuit against another individual or entity. Read on to learn more about when you can sue for injuries you sustained while breaking the law. 

When can you sue for personal injury if you're criminally liable?

Personal injury statutes differ from state to state, but all states provide some ability for an injured party to sue the person, company, or agency that caused the injury -- even if the injured person was engaged in illegal conduct during the accident. However, if it's determined that your criminal actions contributed to the accident by more than half or worsened your injuries, you may be prevented from collecting under the comparative negligence doctrine. 

For example, if you were hit by a reckless driver while yourself driving drunk, you may be able to enforce a judgment if the other driver can be shown to have been engaged in overtly reckless behavior (like traveling at double or more the speed limit while texting). You may not be able to prevail if the defendant can show that you would have been able to avoid the impact had you been sober. If your actions (or inaction) contributed to the accident by only a small margin, the award you get may be reduced by the percentage for which you're deemed responsible, but you'll still be able to collect a judgment. 

Those injured by police officers acting with excessive force can also file a lawsuit against the city or other employer -- even if the criminal case forming the underlying acquaintance remains pending while the civil lawsuit is sorting itself out. While committing an alleged crime can subject you to the booking process or even a night in jail, followed by incarceration or fines after a court hearing, it doesn't (and shouldn't) require you to suffer police brutality. This also applies to those being injured or made ill by other governmental agencies. Although you'll need to follow the procedures outlined in your state's Torts Claim Act to provide the police agency with an opportunity to respond before you file a lawsuit, you'll be able to enjoy a more streamlined process and less crowded courts. 

Are there other situations in which you're permitted to sue even if breaking the law? 

One major area in which tort rights have been extended to those operating outside the law involves illegal immigration. Illegal immigrants or undocumented workers are able to file personal injury lawsuits in most states despite status as noncitizens, although some (particularly "at will" employment states or those without a strong union presence) are more restrictive than others when it comes to being able to collect a judgment. 

Illegal immigrants are able to sue for wage and hour violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, workplace hazards or negligence under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and sexual harassment or other prohibited conduct under federal employment laws. Unfortunately, these employees tend to believe rumors that they'll risk deportation by exercising their rights, and you may find yourself avoiding participation in financial campaigns because of the restrictions placed upon you by the government. 

For more information about filing a personal injury lawsuit, contact a company like Walsh Fewkes Sterba.