Criminal charges may not always be brought against a suspect. In some cases, a wrongdoer even be charged, but found not guilty, or otherwise not criminally responsible after a criminal trial. As a victim, this could leave you wondering what your options are, and in the right situation a civil claim may be appropriate to consider.

One of the main differences between a criminal or civil trial is the burden of proof in each. In a criminal trial, the Crown must prove the elements of an offence beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil claim, the burden of proof is lessened, as the plaintiff must prove their case on the balance of probabilities. This means that the victim’s case must only be seen to be more likely than the defendant’s, rather than beyond a reasonable doubt, as in a criminal case, which is a much harder standard to meet.

This holds true whether or not the accused/defendant has been charged criminally, has been acquitted, or has been convicted. Perhaps the highest profile illustration of the difference in the burdens of proof in a criminal trial as opposed to in a civil claim took place in the United States, when a civil court determined that O.J. Simpson was legally responsible for the death of his wife, despite having been found innocent in a controversial criminal case two years earlier. In Ontario, similar outcomes are possible under the law. If it is found that you did suffer injury, losses or other damage because of the actions or inactions of a defendant, regardless of whether they were criminally charged or convicted, you may be eligible for general, special and/or punitive damages. The amount you could be awarded would depend factors such as the extent of the harm caused, any future expenses that are anticipated, your loss of income, and any conduct of the defendant that may expose them to punitive damages.