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Civil and Criminal Regulatory Asbestos Cases: What is the Difference?

When it comes to asbestos production and use, once an individual or company fails to abide by the set rules, they can either face criminal or civil charges. Different states enforce different rules, but both OSHA and the EPA have the right to enforce the law at the federal level. When it comes to the EPA, the agency takes the enforcement of environmental laws seriously. To the EPA, enforcing these laws ensures that human health and the environment remain protected. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency works hard to ensure people and companies comply with environmental requirements. Whenever warranted, the agency will take either civil or criminal action against people or companies that violate environmental laws.

There is a huge difference between civil and criminal asbestos cases, and the Environmental Protection Agency addresses these differences on its website. According to the website, the two mainly differ in:

  • Legal standard
  • Burden of proof
  • Results

Legal Standard

According to EPA, an environmental civil liability arises when there is an existence of a violation. Generally, an environmental civil liability does not consider whether a party knew or did not know about the law they violated. Conversely, when it comes to environmental criminal liability, liability arises through the existence of a violation and some level of intent. That means criminal liability arises if a party knew, to some extent, about the law they violated.

Burden of Proof

The evidentiary standard, “preponderance of the evidence,” applies to civil cases, whereas the evidentiary standard “beyond a reasonable doubt” applies to criminal cases. The preponderance of the evidence, evidentiary standard, is satisfied when there is more than a 50% chance that the claim being made against a defendant is true. On the other hand, the beyond a reasonable doubt evidentiary standard is satisfied when it is demonstrated that a defendant is most certainly guilty. This evidentiary standard is the highest standard of proof within the U.S. judiciary system.


The possibility of imprisonment is what most distinguishes criminal asbestos cases from civil asbestos cases. Prison time is associated with criminal asbestos cases. When it comes to civil cases, some of the common results include:

  • Monetary penalty
  • Injunctive relief

It is crucial to note that victims of asbestos exposure can still file a case against an individual or company that has already been criminally convicted. In fact, such situations often strengthen victims’ cases. Also, the law does not prevent multiple victims from pursuing compensation for damages stemming from the same action.

Lastly, considering the legal standard and burden of proof, it is often easier for individuals and agencies to pursue civil actions. With a civil case, an individual or agency does not have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt or a level of intent on the defendant’s part. Instead, they only need to prove their asbestos case better than the defendant challenges it.

Nationwide Mesothelioma Lawyers

If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our office to speak to one of our experienced nationwide mesothelioma attorneys about your situation. Our office can help investigate your case and determine if compensation can be sought from negligent parties to help you and your family live a more comfortable life.

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