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Is a Wrongful Death Claim Criminal or Civil?

When someone passes away due to someone else’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing, a wrongful death case can follow. Is a wrongful death claim a criminal or civil matter, though? In legal contexts, a wrongful death case is civil, so it is handled in civil courts. The plaintiff – the family of the deceased – will use the case to demand financial compensation from the defendant – the party who caused the deceased’s untimely death.

A criminal case involving a wrongful death will look considerably different. Rather than being accused of causing a wrongful death, the defendant will be charged with some form of manslaughter or murder. The plaintiff is replaced by a prosecutor, who is not trying to get financial compensation but instead trying to get a jury to convict the defendant of the crime, which can result in jail time and fines paid to the state. A criminal case will not always include payments to be paid to the deceased’s family for restitutions.

Can You Win a Civil Case If You Lose the Criminal Case?

Civil cases are intentionally separate from criminal cases in terms of processing and conclusions. If the person who ended your loved one’s life is not convicted of a crime, then you can still win a civil case against them due to this separation. Famously, O.J. Simpson was not convicted in criminal court for the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman, but he did lose the wrongful death claims filed against him. Differences between evidential burdens – or what needs to be seen or argued to prove guilt and liability – are not the same between criminal and civil cases.

Can You Still File a Civil Case When There Was No Criminal Case?

Just as how you can file and win a civil wrongful death claim after the accused is found not guilty of murder or manslaughter, you can file a claim even if there is never a criminal trial at all. District Attorneys and prosecutors might not find enough convincing evidence to form a valid criminal claim against the defendant. On the other hand, the same evidence could be convincing enough for a civil court judge to approve the implementation of a wrongful death claim.

Can You Receive Damages from Both Criminal & Civil Wrongful Death Cases?

As part of the sentencing used against a criminal defendant in a murder or manslaughter case, the court can order that they pay restitution to the family of the victim. When this happens, pursuing compensation through a wrongful death claim becomes unlikely. Or, if you already have secured compensation through a wrongful death claim before the criminal case concludes, then the court probably won’t order restitution in the sentencing. The overall idea is that you cannot be compensated twice for the same damage or wrongdoing.

Have more questions about wrongful death claims and how they interact with criminal cases, call (800) 674-9339 and connect with Dunk Law Firm. Our nationwide law firm is standing by to answer your questions and help you get a wrongful death claim started. Fill out an online contact form at your next opportunity.

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