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Wrongful Death vs. Murder: What’s the Difference?

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If a family member died as the result of the actions of another, do you file a murder case or a wrongful death lawsuit?

Understanding the difference between wrongful death (civil case) and murder (criminal case) can help you evaluate your legal options and choose the best possible course of action for your family.

Civil vs. Criminal Cases

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action. This means that the case is filed by the relatives of the deceased or by the estate, on the basis that the defendant caused the victim’s death through a deliberate or negligent act. Meanwhile, murder lawsuits are criminal cases, which means the case is filed by the state, on the basis that the defendant committed an act that is illegal in society.

Murder is determined by intent. When an individual intentionally kills another, they are guilty of murder. While wrongful deaths can also be the result of intent, they can also be due to accidents and negligent acts.

Essentially, murder is a type of wrongful death. However, not all wrongful deaths are murders.

Vastly Different Burdens Of Proof

As murders are criminal cases, the prosecutor needs to establish that the defendant committed the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, as wrongful death lawsuits involve civil litigation, they have a different burden of proof. In wrongful death cases, the plaintiff’s attorney must be able to prove that the defendant is more likely than not (preponderance of the evidence) responsible for the death. This means that the plaintiff’s lawyer must be able to convince the jury that there is at least a 51% probability that the defendant committed the allegations in the civil complaint.

Seeking Justice: Murder vs. Wrongful Death

Depending on the state, a murder conviction may result in a prison sentence or death penalty.

On the other hand, the only available remedy in wrongful death cases is the financial recovery of the plaintiff, rather than punishment. If a defendant is found guilty of wrongful death, they have to pay the family or estate financial compensation. The defendant may not face incarceration or other criminal penalties unless criminal charges are filed.

No amount of compensation can restore a loved one’s lost life, but it may be necessary to pay final expenses or secure your family’s financial well-being. The latter is especially true if an individual or family is dependent on the deceased for financial support.

Need Help Filing a Wrongful Death Claim?

If you need help navigating the maze of seeking damages for wrongful death, get in touch with Haffner Law. Our Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer can help you secure fair compensation for your loved one’s untimely loss. We understand that no amount of money can ease the debilitating pain of losing a loved one. But we are also aware that a wrongful death claim can help with the resulting financial losses and take care of the final expenses.

Let us help you through this difficult time. Count on us to provide the best legal representation possible to seek the financial justice you deserve.

Call us at 213-514-5681 or fill out the online contact form at the bottom of this page.

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