When someone’s actions or inactions cause another person to pass away, a court case certainly may result. This doesn’t mean that that person in question acted intentionally. This is not a criminal case, and so the standard of proof isn’t the same. It is much lower. The court also is likely not considering that the person had any intent to cause the fatal injury. It was simply negligence – such as someone who ran a red light and caused a fatal car accident.
If the actions at issue were intentional and criminal charges are also on the table, then the standard of proof employed by a criminal court is very high. It has to be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is guilty of a crime. But with a wrongful death case, a preponderance of evidence is the concern of the court. If the evidence points to the fact that that defendant was responsible for someone’s death, perhaps through their negligence, they can be ordered to pay damages to the family of the person who passed away.
One can happen without the other
It’s also worth noting that a wrongful death case can succeed even when a criminal case does not. For example, consider former football player O.J. Simpson. Even though he was not said to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal court, a preponderance of evidence was still enough that he had to pay the families of his former wife and her friend in civil court. He was found liable for both deaths, even though he wasn’t deemed criminally responsible for those losses.
What damages can be sought?
If you have lost a loved one in a car accident or some other tragic event, you’re probably wondering what damages you could even seek from the responsible party. This likely will start with medical bills, but you may also want to consider funeral costs and things of this nature. On top of that, you may be able to seek compensation for lost wages for the lost future earnings that person was projected to make. Maybe they were the main breadwinner for your family, for example, and your family now has no income. You may be able to seek compensation to replace it.
It’s very important for surviving loved ones to understand how these civil cases work and how they differ from criminal cases. If you’re in a position to seek justice, be sure you know exactly what legal options you have available to you. Seeking legal guidance is an important place to start.