#nursing #home #abuse #lawyer #chicago
April 30th, 2011
The circumstances surrounding the “Angel of Death” Chicago nursing home case has led to two types of legal cases: criminal and civil. Considering that many cases of nursing home abuse lead to both types of cases, it is important to understand the distinctions between them. Those differences include what parties are involved, the legal standards by which they are resolved, and the possible consequences.
Who Is Involved
A civil lawsuit involves a private individual suing another private individual, business, or government entity for failure to carry out a legal duty. For example, the child of a nursing home resident can sue the company that runs the nursing home for the company’s failure to provide a reasonable level of care for their loved one. These cases usually begin when a nursing home lawyer files a complaint with the court on the victim’s behalf.
A criminal case involves the general public (the government) claiming that a private individual violated societal laws. For example, a nurse that knowingly overmedicates a patient may have violated a specific law against provided too much or non-prescribed medication to another. The criminal case begins only when a prosecutor (at either the state or federal level) makes a formal accusation against the person, called an indictment. The victim is not specifically involved in initiating criminal cases.
As in the “Angel of Death” case, a single incident will spawn both types of cases. They are completely independent from one another in that way.
One of the most important differences between these cases is the legal standard or burden of proof that must be shown to reach a specific resolution. To receive a conviction in a criminal a case a prosecutor must prove that the defendant committed the crime beyond any reasonable doubt. This is a high and difficult standard to meet. Conversely, in civil cases a jury can reach a guilty verdict so long as the plaintiff shows that they were wronged by a preponderance of the evidence. The preponderance standard is met so long as the jury believes the plaintiff even a sliver more than the defendant. Because of the different standards, it is quite common for a criminal case to result in a not guilty verdict while a jury in a civil case reaches the opposite conclusion.
The Possible Outcome
The possibility of incarceration only exists in criminal cases. That is one of the main reasons why the standard of proof is higher in those cases. Conversely, in civil cases the result is typically a monetary award (medical expenses, compensation for pain and suffering, etc.). At times these cases can also involve an injunction.—a court order to do or not do something. For example, a court may order a nursing home to hire more nurses or some other action to raise the standard of care.
Both types of cases can also be resolved before reaching trial. In a civil case, this is called a settlement, where the parties agree on some compensation on their own. In criminal matters, a party will often accept a plea agreement, where the punishment is agreed to before going to trial.