Civil Claims vs. Criminal Charges for a Wrongful Death

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Wrongful death cases often arise from scenarios where the death is a result of another person’s actions, often involving some form of negligence. The traditional view on wrongful death cases is that they are tried in the civil court system. However, some cases warrant both a criminal case and a civil claim. Therefore the pre-filing duration of your claim should involve seeking to understand both actions and their ultimate benefits.

The liable party in a wrongful death case has the mandate to compensate the estate of the deceased person; therefore it is important to always consult with a good Spokane personal injury attorney for guidance on the best possible action in your case.

Civil Claims

A civil claim in a wrongful death case is where the aggrieved parties institute legal proceedings against the party responsible for the death. This is the type of proceeding commenced as a civil proceeding guided by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

In a civil claim for wrongful death, the damages sought are usually monetary. You are required to expressly state the amount of monetary damages you think the court should award. The stated monetary damages then must be proven in court through either statute, case law, or net computation backed up by calculations done by a competent economist.

The rules of pleadings in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure must be adhered to. Having an attorney on board is one way of ensuring your pleadings are done right and following the civil procedure rules. Subsequently, your attorney will always ensure that you maximize the award of your claim through detailing all of the facts.

In a wrongful death civil claim, filing of the claim is usually done within very strict timelines. Some people less informed on the statute of limitations might attempt to file outside the statutory period, which will lead to the rejection of their case. 

Consulting with a good injury attorney is one of the ways you can be certain that someone knowledgeable in all aspects of civil claims is handling your case. Also, where reasons for filing outside the statutory limitation period are strong, the court may allow your claim to be heard. In instances where some facts about the claim were concealed from you and you only became aware of the facts later on, your attorney can cite these reasons in their pleadings, and the court can consider it as a valid reason for filing the case late.

Criminal Charges for a Wrongful Death

Criminal charges in a wrongful death scenario are commenced by the governing body where the death occurred. The subject of a civil wrongful death claim is usually negligence, but this does not necessarily mean the charge in the criminal matter will be criminal negligence. In a criminal case, a charge can be murder, homicide, voluntary manslaughter, or involuntary manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter is simply a lesser murder charge, and the prosecution must prove that the accused person had an intention to cause death. Involuntary manslaughter on the other hand, refers to the killing of another without intent.

Main Differences Between Civil and Criminal Cases

The main differences between civil claims and criminal charges of wrongful death are sometimes subtle but always clear. In a civil suit, the beneficiaries or survivors of the deceased bring a suit against the potential liable party. In criminal cases, on the hand, the case is done in the interest of the public; therefore, the parties are the state against the accused person. The rule applicable in proofing a civil case is on a balance of probability. In contrast, for criminal cases, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused person is guilty of the charges.


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