When a Maryland nursing home employee is subject to neglect or abuse, the local prosecuting authority has the discretion whether to pursue criminal charges against the accused. Typically, if criminal charges are filed, the victim of the abuse or neglect will wait until the resolution of the criminal case to pursue a civil claim for damages. If the accused is found guilty at a criminal trial, this may help the victim obtain a judgment against their abuser.
While a criminal conviction may make it easier for the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect to recover for their injuries in a personal injury lawsuit, it is important that Maryland nursing home residents and their families know that there is no requirement that the accused is found guilty – or even charged – with a criminal offense. This is due to the different standards of proof in civil and criminal cases.
To be found guilty of a criminal offense, a jury must establish that the accused is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is a very high standard. However, in a civil claim against a Maryland nursing home, the plaintiff need only prove that the defendant was liable by a “preponderance of the evidence.” Most jurists understand this standard to mean that it was “more likely than not” that the defendant is liable under the plaintiff’s theory.