Wrongful death cases and criminal charges both involve the loss of life, but they are distinct legal proceedings with different purposes, standards of proof, and outcomes. It is essential to understand these differences to navigate the legal system effectively when faced with a situation involving the death of a loved one.
Wrongful Death Case:
- Civil vs. Criminal. Wrongful death cases are civil lawsuits filed by the surviving family members or the estate of the deceased individual against the party or parties believed to be responsible for the death. These cases are intended to seek compensation for the survivors, rather than punishment for the defendant.
- Burden of Proof. In a wrongful death case, the burden of proof is based on a preponderance of the evidence. This means that the plaintiff (the party filing the lawsuit) must demonstrate that it is more likely than not that the defendant’s actions or negligence led to the death.
- Parties Involved. The parties involved in a wrongful death case typically include the surviving family members, such as spouses, children, or parents of the deceased, as well as the defendant, who may be an individual, corporation, or entity.
- Purpose. As a lawyer, like a wrongful death lawyer, knows, the primary purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to provide financial compensation to the surviving family members for losses incurred as a result of the death. This compensation may cover medical expenses, funeral costs, lost income, and emotional distress.
- Potential Outcome. As lawyers from a law office such as Ward & Ward Law Firm know, if successful, a wrongful death lawsuit may result in a monetary award to the plaintiffs, which is meant to alleviate the financial burden caused by the loss of their loved one.
- Criminal vs. Civil. Criminal charges are brought by the government, typically represented by a prosecutor, against an individual or entity accused of committing a crime. These cases aim to hold the defendant criminally accountable for their actions and can result in penalties such as imprisonment, fines, probation, or community service.
- Burden of Proof. In criminal cases, the burden of proof is much higher. The prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a substantially higher standard than the preponderance of evidence used in civil cases.
- Parties Involved. The parties in a criminal case include the state or government (prosecution) and the defendant, who is the person or entity accused of committing a crime. The victim’s family may be involved as witnesses, but they are not the parties bringing the charges.
- Purpose. The primary purpose of criminal charges is to punish individuals who have violated the law and to protect society by deterring criminal behavior. Criminal penalties may include imprisonment, fines, probation, or other forms of punishment.
- Potential Outcome. If the defendant is found guilty in a criminal case, they may face penalties, including incarceration or fines, but the victim’s family typically does not receive financial compensation through the criminal justice system.
Get Help For Your Wrongful Death Claim
The fundamental difference between a wrongful death case and criminal charges lies in their nature, burden of proof, parties involved, purpose, and potential outcomes. When you need help with a wrongful death claim, reach out to a legal team you can trust.