One of the biggest differences between murder charges and a wrongful death suit is that murder is a criminal charge dealt with in criminal court, whereas a wrongful death suit takes place in civil court.
Losing a loved one, friend, or family member can be traumatizing, and can lead to long-term emotional and mental anguish. Furthermore, when a person dies because of the actions of another person, there is often confusion about murder versus wrongful death.
While nothing can remedy your loss, understanding the law is essential. For more information about the differences between murder and wrongful death, refer to the following.
Pennsylvania Statue Title 18, Chapter 25, details the degrees of a murder with which a person can be charged.
- first-degree murder.
- second-degree murder.
- third-degree murder.
- voluntary manslaughter.
- and, involuntary manslaughter.
Murder of the first degree is the most serious type of murder a person can commit, and can result in the death penalty or a sentence of life imprisonment. On the other hand, involuntary manslaughter is the least severe murder conviction in the state, is a first-degree misdemeanor, and may result in a prison sentence of up to five years.
In addition to the degrees of murder with which a person may be charged, a criminal murder charge also differs from a civil wrongful death lawsuit in the burden of proof required to establish the guilt of the defendant. In a murder trial, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the murder in order for a conviction to occur.
Examples of Wrongful Death Suits
Wrongful death suits are heard in civil court, and are typically filed by a direct family member, such as the spouse, parent, or child, or the deceased. Wrongful death cases are filed in the event another person’s negligent, or grossly irresponsible, actions led to the death of a person.
Additionally, wrongful death cases can also often target more than one person. For example, those who may be liable in a wrongful death suit include the following.
- a driver who caused a fatal accident.
- a physician who made a medical error.
- the manufacturer or distributor of a defective product.
- the owner of a pool where a drowning occurred.
- a dangerous prescription drug company.
- an amusement park where a fatal accident happened.
- and, anyone else whose actions contributed to the wrongful death of another.
Wrongful death suits are also very different than criminal cases in that a wrongful death suit is filed in order to recover damages for the family of the victim. In a criminal case, no financial compensation will be awarded to a family.
Finally, a murder charge and a wrongful death suit can be filed independently of one another, and a court decision in criminal court will not determine the outcome in civil court, and vice versa. For example, a person may not be guilty of a murder charge in criminal court, but may still be liable in a wrongful death case.
Seek Legal Help from Cordisco & Saile LLC
If you’ve lost a loved one, the state will handle necessary criminal charges. However, if you want to pursue civil charges, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit from the time of death up to two years, according to Sec. 5524 of the Pennsylvania Code.
At Cordisco & Saile LLC, we know how heart wrenching losing a loved one can be, and we’ll help you pursue the compensation to which you’re entitled. To begin filing your wrongful death suit, contact us at 215-642-2335.