Wrongful death lawsuits are brought by the estate or survivors of a deceased person against a person who can be held liable for the person’s death. The claim is a common law tort claim in a variety of jurisdictions.
The claim of wrongful death was created by judges as under the common law a dead person is unable to bring a lawsuit. This created a huge legal loophole in which activities that resulted in injuries would, usually, end up in civil court; however, activities that resulted in the death of an individual would not end up in civil court because a dead person couldn’t file a lawsuit. This created a problem because a person who merely caused injuries through negligence would be held liable but one would ended up killing a person through negligence would end up not liable.
In the United States, families of murder victims frequently turn to wrongful death lawsuits because the standard of proof is lower. The standard of proof is “preponderance of the evidence” in civil suits while it is “clear or convincing” or “beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal cases. The lower standard of proof makes it easier to seek retribution against someone through a tort action than relying on the criminal process.
A criminal prosecution for the death of an individual does not mean that a family cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit. The two actions are not mutually exclusive. There is nothing wrong with being held liable for wrongful death if one has already been acquitted of found guilty of criminal charges. This is because the negligent person’s freedom isn’t at risk in a wrongful death lawsuit, just the bank account. A classic example of this is the O.J. Simpson situation.
If a family member has died through the negligent actions of another, contact the Stevens Point wrongful death lawyers of Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. ® at 800-242-2874 to discuss your situation and to determine if there are legal options.