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Differences Between Personal Injury and Criminal Defense Attorneys

— June 27, 2022

Though many other factors differentiate personal injury from criminal defense attorneys, the main difference is the type of law each handles.

Personal injury attorneys focus on taking care of the legal needs of victims and suing negligent parties. A specialized criminal defense attorney works exclusively with either state or federal defendants.

The main difference between personal injury and criminal defense is that only the former deals with civil cases, while criminal defense lawyers defend people who have been accused or are suspected by other people of violating a law.

Different Approaches to Work

One key distinction between personal injury and criminal defense attorneys is their support work for their clients. Personal injury attorneys are more likely to conduct research, analyze data, review and write up contracts, prepare insurance claims and take legislative action on behalf of their clients.

The personal injury attorneys specializing in mass torts often lead in directing their clients toward support groups and social service workers for job placement. In fact, they help clients connect to experts in different fields who can help them rebuild their lives.

Counseling can also help survivors heal. Not all the scars left by an accident are visible, some are hidden deep within our psyche. A therapist can help clients understand their feelings and process their emotions. Learning how to cope with traumatic events is one of the main goals of therapy.

Criminal defense lawyers focus more on evaluating the prosecutor’s case against their client. If the prosecutor has enough evidence to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, then the criminal defense attorney would look for ways to help mitigate the penalty so that it is commensurate with the crime.

The defense attorney will then look for evidence to challenge the prosecutor’s theory of what happened and reduce or even eliminate the punishment. Criminal defense lawyers usually work with defendants immediately after their arrest, but they also handle parole cases and represent clients in civil court who have been accused of a crime.

Differences in Types of Cases Handled

Personal injury attorneys must be aware that they will be handling a wide variety of cases. Personal injury can include the following:

  • Slips and falls
  • Car crashes
  • Drunk driving accidents

Some personal injury cases are more complex than others. For example, in the case of auto accident victims, the client may have suffered a traumatic brain injury from whiplash or had multiple fractures from an accident that involved multiple cars.

Criminal defense lawyers specialize in criminal matters, health care fraud, and Medicare violations. They deal with everything from vehicular manslaughter to possession of narcotics and firearms to other charges related to their clients’ alleged crimes against society.

Differences in the Legal Process

Image by Wannapik Studios.
Image by Wannapik Studios.

While personal injury and criminal defense attorneys need to have an in-depth knowledge of state and federal laws, personal injury lawyers primarily only practice civil law. In contrast, criminal defense lawyers handle both civil and criminal cases.

Criminal cases are usually prosecuted by the state or federal government, so most criminal defense attorneys work at either a state or federal level. For example, a criminal defense attorney in Richmond, Virginia, will be defending their client against the state of Virginia, and the same goes for a client sued by the federal government.

Different Methods of Compensation

Many personal injury cases include compensation for the client’s actual injuries and reimbursement for their medical expenses, but criminal cases generally only involve compensation to reimburse losses. Personal injury attorneys usually have to determine how much is a reasonable amount to settle a case before proceeding to court.

In contrast, criminal defense attorneys rarely have to make that determination because they often waive their right to case discovery. The state handles all legal costs, constantly seeking higher penalties than the defense attorney would ask for in court.

Seek Legal Assistance

Though many other factors differentiate personal injury from criminal defense attorneys, the main difference is the type of law each handles. Personal injury attorneys deal with civil law and clients who have been injured by someone else’s negligence, while criminal defense attorneys handle both civil and criminal cases for their clients.

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