The loss of a loved one is a devastating experience, and when that loss is the result of someone’s actions, it can be even more painful. In such cases, understanding the legal distinctions between wrongful death and criminal homicide is essential. A wrongful death attorney with our friends at David & Philpot, PL, can attest to the importance of grasping these differences when seeking justice and closure.

Wrongful Death: A Civil Matter

Defining Wrongful Death

Wrongful death is a legal claim brought by the surviving family members of a deceased individual when their death is the result of another party’s negligence or misconduct. It is considered a civil matter rather than a criminal one.

Burden of Proof

In a wrongful death case, the burden of proof is typically lower than in a criminal homicide case. To succeed, the plaintiff (the surviving family members) must demonstrate that the defendant’s negligence or wrongful actions were a substantial factor in causing the death.

Purpose of Wrongful Death Claims

The primary purpose of wrongful death claims is to seek financial compensation for the losses suffered by the surviving family members. These losses may include medical expenses, funeral costs, lost income, and emotional suffering.

Criminal Homicide: A Criminal Matter

Defining Criminal Homicide

Criminal homicide, on the other hand, is a criminal offense in which one person intentionally or recklessly causes the death of another. It is prosecuted by the government, and if found guilty, the defendant may face criminal penalties such as imprisonment.

Burden of Proof

In criminal homicide cases, the burden of proof is much higher. The prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, a significantly more demanding standard compared to civil cases.

Purpose of Criminal Homicide Cases

Criminal homicide cases are not pursued for financial compensation but rather for the purpose of punishment and public safety. If convicted, the defendant may face penalties ranging from probation to life imprisonment, or even the death penalty in certain jurisdictions.

Key Distinctions

1. Legal Standards: Wrongful death cases are based on a preponderance of the evidence, while criminal homicide cases require proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

2. Penalties: Wrongful death cases result in financial compensation, while criminal homicide cases lead to criminal penalties for the defendant.

3. Parties Involved: Wrongful death claims are brought by surviving family members in civil court, while criminal homicide cases are prosecuted by the government in criminal court.

4. Purpose: Wrongful death claims seek compensation, whereas criminal homicide cases seek punishment and justice for society.

Coexistence Of Civil And Criminal Cases

It is essential to understand that wrongful death and criminal homicide cases can coexist. For example, in a situation where someone is criminally charged for causing a death, the surviving family members may also pursue a wrongful death claim to seek financial compensation for their losses.

Wrongful death and criminal homicide are distinct legal concepts with different purposes, standards of proof, and outcomes.A lawyer will understand the intricacies of both types of cases and can provide valuable guidance and legal representation when seeking justice for the loss of a loved one. Whether you are navigating a wrongful death claim, a criminal homicide case, or both, having experienced attorneys by your side can make all the difference in achieving the closure and justice your family deserves.