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What is the Difference Between a Criminal Case and a Civil Case When a Child Is Molested or Abused at a Day Care Center?

By David Wolf, Attorney and Samantha Vloedman, Law Clerk

Published by Child Injury Lawyer Blog

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When a child is being cared for at a day care center, school, summer camp, or other person / entity, a parent should be able to rely on the good nature of people and organizations that the child will be cared for in a nurturing manner by adults who really promote the best interests of their child. Unfortunately, people in trust like child care providers, babysitters, and even family members use these unique opportunities to abuse, neglect, and molest the very children under their care.

A Michigan man was recently convicted for sexually abusing a child at an at home day care center. The man provided transportation for the children and was often in the home where the day care service was provided. He was sentenced for six counts of second degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of accosting and soliciting a child.

When a child is molested or abused at a day care center, criminal charges can be filed, like those filed against the man in Michigan, and a civil law suit can be filed to recover monetary damages for the victim. Criminal and civil cases have two different burdens of proof. This means that each has a certain level of proof that the prosecutor or plaintiff must show in order to have a defendant found guilty by a jury.

A prosecutor in a criminal case must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. This is the highest burden of proof in the court system. Beyond a reasonable doubt is not a mere possibility that someone else could have committed the crime. Anything is possible. Instead, it means that based on logic or reason, there is only one explanation in the mind of the juror.

A plaintiff in a civil law suit must prove by the greater weight of the evidence that the defendant committed the wrongful act. This standard is less than the standard in a criminal case. Here, the plaintiff only has to show that the defendant more likely than not committed the wrongful act.

When a person molests or abuses a child at a day care center, the person may face both the consequences of prison time and fines through a criminal case and the consequences of a judgment for damages through a civil case. It is best to contact a Child Injury Attorney in the event that a child is molested or abused at a day care center or other location to determine whether a civil law suit can be filed to enforce the legal rights of the child.

A good resource for a parent dealing with the aftermath of a child abused at a day care center or other entity is the book – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know. This book has chapters on Day Care Center Injuries, School Injuries, Playground Injuries, Water Park and Aquatic Injuries, and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.