Woodland Hills personal injury attorney Barry P. Goldberg is fortunate to associate with top legal and financial professionals. The question often arises about what happens when there is BOTH a criminal and personal injury matter at the same time. Consider Mr. Goldberg’s recent Article;”Does an Award of “Restitution” Affect my Personal Injury Settlement?” For a totally different perspective, Southern California Rising Star Criminal defense attorney Silva Megerditchian has shared her thoughts and perspective with my clients and followers in this Article; When Criminal Defense Cases and Personal Injury Claims Collide! Consider the following:
My client had been a law-abiding citizen his whole life. He was in his 40s, happily married and owner of his own business.
But one night, he had a lack of judgement that had serious consequences. After celebrating with his friends drinking, he drove his car and collided with another vehicle. He rear-ended a car—and in that car was a mother of two.
Not only was my client in need of a criminal defense attorney, but a knowledgeable personal injury attorney as well. It is well known and recommended that victims hire a personal injury attorney to have them effectively get their damages and medical costs paid; but also those who are arrested–whether a DUI with an accident, or even a bar fight where someone gets injured–get representation to secure and protect their assets.
I represent many clients who unfortunately get arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol and get into tragic accidents. In many instances, these accidents effect innocent people who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Victims of accidents have multiple arenas in which they can get “made whole again” for injuries and/or damages sustained. First, the insurance companies may accept or deny claims; Second, the criminal courts allow victims to collect “restitution.” Restitution claims may be submitted to the District Attorney or City Attorney assigned to the case. The defendant has the right to a restitution hearing where the victim is expected to testify to the damages sustained with proof. Proof may be given through a variety of ways: receipts, medical records and/or insurance claims not paid out—the Judge will make a ruling, and if those costs are reasonable, the defendant will be required to pay; and Third, the victim may hire a personal injury attorney and sue the defendant for damages and handle those claims through Civil Court.
An important note, the victim may not have “double recovery.” What that means is if the civil court in fact pays out damages, victims are barred from seeking the same damages from a criminal restitution hearing. In many cases in fact, when a case is settled with a personal injury claim, a waiver is usually signed which prevents the victim from seeking additional damages from the criminal action.
Why What You Say In Court Matters– “No Contest vs. Guilty”
When pleading to a criminal case, it is also so important to use proper language. So many of my clients ask me what is the difference between pleading no contest vs. guilty.
First, a “plea” is a client’s formal response to the court of the charges made against them—a person can plead NOT GUILTY, GUILTY or NO CONTEST. “No contest” essentially tells the Court that the client does not admit guilt, but that the facts in the charge are true. The Court will advise in open court that a no contest plea has the same effect as a guilty plea…EXCEPT when it comes to civil claims…a NO CONTEST plea cannot be used against the person in a civil proceeding. This is so important especially if a client is getting sued in civil court for an accident that was charged in criminal court.
When my client had his DUI case, after careful analysis and investigation, he decided to plead no contest. By doing so, he protected himself from the victim using his plea against him in civil court. If he had plead guilty, the civil court could use his plea against him, which would have had serious consequences in his civil suit. My client ended up saving hundreds of thousands of dollars because of his skilled representation.
It is so important to have a criminal defense attorney understand the process of personal injury claims and work closely with that attorney to make sure a lack of judgement will not affect the client for the rest of their existence. These cases are not easy, they are complicated as is the language the Court uses. Remember, always have experienced and skilled representation on your side.
Barry P. Goldberg extends a special thanks to Criminal Defense Attorney Silva L. Megerditchian, Owner and Lead Attorney for the Law Office of Silva L. Megerditchian. 21650 Oxnard Street, Suite 2000 Woodland Hills, CA 91367 &10942 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1600 Los Angeles, CA. 90024 (310) 443-4119