What Is the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case in Terms of Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death occurs when someone dies as a result of the negligence or intentional actions of another person. When this happens, the victim’s family members may have legal recourse through both civil and criminal proceedings. However, these two legal avenues differ significantly in terms of purpose, burden of proof, and potential outcomes. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between civil and criminal cases in the context of wrongful death.
Civil Cases: Seeking Compensation for Damages
A civil case is a legal proceeding that seeks to hold a person or entity responsible for causing harm to another person. In the case of wrongful death, a civil lawsuit can be filed by the victim’s family members against the responsible party, seeking compensation for damages. Damages may include medical bills, funeral expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Criminal Cases: Holding Wrongdoers Accountable for Crimes
In contrast to a civil case, a criminal case is a legal proceeding that seeks to hold a person accountable for committing a crime. In the case of wrongful death, a criminal case may be filed by the state against the responsible party, alleging that they committed a crime such as manslaughter or murder.
Key Differences Between Civil and Criminal Cases in Wrongful Death
When it comes to wrongful death, the differences between civil and criminal cases are significant. Here are some of the key distinctions:
- Purpose: The purpose of a civil case is for family members to get compensation for the damages caused by the wrongful death. The purpose of a criminal case is not to compensate the victim’s family, but rather to punish the wrongdoer for their actions.
- Burden of proof: The burden of proof is the level of evidence required to prove a case. In a civil case, the burden of proof is based on a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that the plaintiff must show that it is more likely than not that the defendant was responsible for the wrongful death. In a criminal case, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a much higher standard. The prosecution must prove that the defendant committed the crime with a high degree of certainty, and the evidence must be strong enough to leave no reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors.
- Plaintiff: In a civil case involving wrongful death, the victim’s family members are the plaintiffs who file the lawsuit against the responsible party. The plaintiffs must show that the defendant was responsible for the wrongful death and that they suffered damages as a result. In a criminal case, the state is the plaintiff, and the defendant is the person accused of committing a crime. The state must prove that the defendant committed the crime, and if convicted, the defendant may face fines, imprisonment, or other penalties.
- Potential outcomes: In a civil case involving wrongful death, the defendant may be ordered to pay damages to the victim’s family. These damages may include compensation for medical bills, funeral expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In a criminal case, the defendant may face fines, imprisonment, or other penalties if convicted. The specific penalties will depend on the severity of the crime and the laws in the state where the crime was committed.
How Can The Sampson Law Firm Help?
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence or intentional actions of another person, you may be entitled to compensation through a civil wrongful death lawsuit. The experienced attorneys at The Sampson Law Firm can help you navigate the legal system and seek justice on behalf of your loved one. We understand that no amount of money can make up for the loss of a loved one, but we believe that holding the responsible party accountable can provide some measure of closure and prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.
Our Louisville defense attorneys have extensive experience representing clients in personal injury cases, including wrongful death lawsuits. We are dedicated to protecting the rights of individuals and never insurance companies. We have built our practice, and our reputation in the legal community, upon our willingness to aggressively litigate cases and take them to trial whenever necessary. If you need help with a wrongful death case, contact us today at (502) 584-5050 to schedule a consultation.