It can be easy to be confused by the difference between civil and criminal charges that can arise from the death of a person. If the death was caused by either someone’s intentional wrongdoing or negligence, they may likely be charged with murder or manslaughter based off an investigation by the state. However, the law provides a separate path for the loved ones of the victim to seek compensation for their loss by the person who caused the death.
It is important to understand that civil and criminal cases are very different. These differences may be confusing, but they boil down to how difficult it is to prove something. In a criminal case, the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that a jury must be totally convinced without any hesitation that the defendant is guilty, and is a very difficult burden to meet. Meanwhile the burden of proof in a civil case is “by a preponderance of the evidence.” This is a much simpler burden which means “more likely than not.” Because of these different burdens, the outcome of a wrongful death case can be radically different than the outcome of a murder case against the same defendant.
There is also a difference in who can bring up the charges in a civil and criminal wrongful death case. Criminal charges are prosecuted by the state and can lead to fines, imprisonment or probation. Civil cases are argued by private citizens. Only the surviving family or dependents of the victim may file a civil wrongful death claim, and the claim can seek monetary compensation for the loss of a loved one. These compensations are designed to help pay for funeral costs, lost income provided by the victim, and in some cases to compensate for the emotional trauma of losing someone important to you.
Filing and arguing a civil wrongful death case is no easy matter however, and achieving a desired outcome will require a skilled and experienced wrongful death lawyer Dekalb County GA trusts. If you are considering filing a civil action after losing a loved one, you should find an attorney in your area with extensive understanding of the inner workings of a wrongful death case. Your attorney will be able to look at the facts of your case and lay out the best path for you. No amount of money can ever replace someone you love, but you still deserve the best representation to make sure that you do not have to shoulder the financial costs of their loss.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. for their insight into civil and criminal wrongful death cases.