When a person dies, separate legal actions can arise based on two different possibilities — the death was the result of another person’s intentional malice or intention to kill or another’s negligence/carelessness.
In the first instance, the person who caused the death, or the defendant, is charged with murder and may undergo an investigation into the fatality: accident or otherwise. However, in the second case, when the death occurred because of someone else’s negligence, murder charges do not apply. Instead, survivors of the deceased can file a wrongful death lawsuit and claim financial damages for the loss of their loved one.
For those not in the legal business, the difference between murder and wrongful death may seem confusing. To understand the difference between the crime of murder and the tort of wrongful death, it is important to understand how the New Jersey legal system works.
Murder is a crime and is tried in a criminal court system, prosecuted by Trenton prosecutors. Wrongful death, on the other hand, is a civil action, and the action is filed in a civil court. Family members of a person who died due to the negligence of another person can hire a wrongful death lawyer to help them recover the highest possible damages for their losses.
Can a murder lead to a wrongful death lawsuit?
It is possible for survivors of the deceased to claim wrongful death damages when the deceased was murdered. Say, for instance, a person is murdered in a homicide, and law enforcement arrests his killer. The goal of law enforcement, prosecutors and the criminal justice system is to ensure that the person is prosecuted and convicted.
However, even after a conviction and sentencing, the murder victim’s survivors may need to claim damages for the death in order to meet daily expenses, household operation costs, children’s educational needs and other expenses. The difference between murder and wrongful death is that the criminal justice system can’t deliver those damages for you. Its only intention is to prosecute and convict. Beneficiaries of the deceased can, therefore, file a wrongful death lawsuit to claim damages from the defendant.
In order to understand the difference between the crime of murder and the tort of wrongful death, think back not so long ago to a famous car chase in California. When OJ Simpson was found not guilty of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend, the Brown family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against him. A civil court ordered him to pay the family financial damages. Regardless of the fact that a criminal court found him not guilty, the civil court held that he was liable for the family’s damages and losses as a result of Brown’s death.
What do I need to prove in a wrongful death lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is completely independent of any criminal murder charges filed against the defendant. The two cases will be heard in different Trenton courts and are independent of each other. A criminal court system will require that prosecutors prove the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt. However, a civil system does not require such a high burden of proof. The civil system only requires proving that the defendant is at fault for 51 percent or more.
A wrongful death lawsuit requires proof that that the defendant’s negligence resulted in the death and that losses were suffered as a result of the death.
No amount of money can compensate for the loss of a loved one. However, compensation can help bear your financial burdens after the loss. If you have recently lost a loved one due to another person’s negligence and want further info on what is the difference between murder and wrongful death, call a lawyer at Cordisco & Saile today to see if your situation merits a claim. Our law team in Trenton is ready to answer any questions you may have, whether they are about the difference between murder and wrongful death, damages or any other legal matter. Call 215-642-2335.