The term wrongful death often confuses people. Since murder and manslaughter are crimes, why is there another category? The answer lies in how the legal system is divided between civil cases and criminal cases. Murder and manslaughter are criminal charges, and these charges are brought by the state. Manslaughter, on the other hand, is a civil charge; family members who have been affected by a death can file a wrongful death suit.
One of the primary differences between criminal charges and civil charges is the burden of proof. To prove murder or manslaughter, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. In civil cases, on the other hand, the plaintiff needs only to show that the preponderance of evidence points towards guilt. For this reason, securing a wrongful death conviction is much easier than securing a murder or manslaughter conviction. It should also be noted that a murder or manslaughter charge does not prevent a family from seeking a wrongful death conviction.
Wrongful death suits generally result from intentional murder and negligent actions. In most states, gross negligence on behalf of the defendant has to be demonstrated; a simple mistake may not meet this burden. Jail time will not result from a wrongful death conviction, but the fines levied upon those who are convicted are often substantial. In addition, companies can be charged with wrongful death even though they cannot be charged with murder and manslaughter.
Families in California who have been affected by the death of a loved one are encouraged to contact a Pasadena personal injury attorney to find out what their options are. A Pasadena personal injury lawyer will likely be able to help as wrongful death suits are often similar to civil injury lawsuits. The court system can be difficult to navigate, and assistance is needed to bring charges.
The death of a family member is traumatic, and relatives of the victim may not find money to provide much comfort. However, wrongful death suits also serve as a punishment, and they can be used whether or not the defendant has been charged in a criminal court.