The untimely death of a loved one is a devastating experience, and when it occurs due to someone else’s actions, it raises complex legal questions. In such cases, understanding the distinctions between wrongful death and criminal homicide is crucial. While both involve the death of an individual, they have distinct legal purposes, processes, and consequences. In this blog, our wrongful death attorneys break this down.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Wrongful death lawsuits are civil claims filed by family members of the deceased against whoever they believe legally bears responsibility for their loved one’s death. These civil actions aim to make the liable party financially accountable. Wrongful death cases are brought directly by surviving relatives, not criminal prosecutors. The purpose is to help the family obtain compensation for their loss.
Criminal homicide charges, on the other hand, are prosecuted by the state through public prosecutors when someone is suspected of unlawfully causing another person’s death. These criminal cases can lead to penalties like imprisonment, probation or monetary fines. Criminal homicide charges have a punitive purpose and involve government prosecutors, unlike wrongful death civil lawsuits initiated by the deceased’s family primarily seeking financial remedies.
The following are the key differences between wrongful death and criminal homicide:
- Legal purpose: Wrongful death lawsuits are filed to seek financial compensation for the deceased person’s family, while criminal homicide cases are prosecuted to punish the offender for their crime and deter future crimes.
- Brought by: Wrongful death lawsuits are brought by the surviving family members or beneficiaries of the deceased person, while criminal homicide cases are brought by the government.
- Burden of proof: The burden of proof in a wrongful death case is lower than in a criminal homicide case. In a wrongful death case, the plaintiff must prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant’s actions or negligence caused the death. In a criminal homicide case, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Element of intent: Intent is not a required element in a wrongful death case, but it is a required element in a criminal homicide case.
- Outcome: The outcome of a wrongful death case is financial compensation for the deceased person’s family, while the outcome of a criminal homicide case is criminal penalties for the wrongdoer such as imprisonment, probation, or fines.
Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death cases can be filed in a variety of circumstances, such as when a death is caused by:
- Medical malpractice
- Negligent driving
- Defective products
- Workplace accidents
- Premises liability
- Intentional acts of violence
In a wrongful death case, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s actions or negligence caused the death of their loved one. The plaintiff may also seek compensation for other losses, such as funeral expenses, medical bills, lost income, and the emotional suffering of the survivors.
Criminal Homicide Cases
Criminal charges relating to a death can include:
- Negligent homicide
The specific charges filed will depend on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s intent. For example, if the defendant intentionally killed the victim with malice aforethought, they may be charged with murder. If the defendant killed the victim recklessly or negligently, they may be charged with manslaughter.
Our Kansas City Area Wrongful Death Attorneys Can Help
The loss of a loved one is a tragic event, and it can be difficult to know how to proceed legally in such circumstances. If you are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit or pursuing criminal charges against the responsible party, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney. Our Kansas City wrongful death attorneys can help you understand your legal rights and options and develop a strategy for pursuing justice for your loved one. Contact us today.