If you’re in the tragic situation where you believe someone killed a family member, your first course of action will likely be to pursue criminal charges. Even if the accused is found innocent of a crime such as murder or manslaughter, you still have the option of bringing a civil case.
Wrongful death cases can be easier to prove than murder, because the standard of proof is lower than in a criminal trial.
In most cases, you will complete the criminal trial before going to civil court. Much of the evidence presented will be the same as what was put before the jury in the criminal trial. The difference is you will be fighting to receive monetary damages for your loss instead of sending the perpetrator to jail.
You have likely heard of cases, the O.J. Simpson case being one of the most famous examples, where the person accused of murder was found not guilty of criminal charges, but later had to pay damages. In the Simpson case, the families of Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson were awarded cash damages after a jury found Simpsons liable for the deaths in civil court.
The Simpson case is an example of a plaintiff winning a wrongful death lawsuit.
No case is straightforward, and you will likely feel discouraged if the person you believe is responsible of a loved one’s death is exonerated of criminal charges. However, you have every right to pursue justice through civil court.
No settlement or monetary damages will bring your loved one back, but you can hold the party responsible for his or her death.