Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Considered a Criminal or Civil Matter in Florida?
If you recently experienced the death of a loved one and believe that the actions of another person are responsible for that death, you may have considered filing a wrongful death lawsuit. The following article will discuss whether a wrongful death lawsuit is considered a criminal or civil matter.
What is a wrongful death lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is based on a claim that one person’s death was the result of another person’s negligence or misconduct. Wrongful death claims can apply to all types of fatal accidents, ranging from car accidents to medical malpractice. Various individuals can be sued in wrongful death suits, such as the driver in a car accident fatality or the physician in a medical malpractice fatality.
Is a wrongful death case a criminal or civil matter?
Because in wrongful death cases, the actions of the defendant caused the unnecessary death of another, it might seem like a wrongful death case is a criminal matter but it is actually a civil matter. There are major differences between criminal and civil cases.
First, in a civil case, justice is represented by a monetary award; in a criminal case, justice is usually represented by imprisonment, probation, or fines.
Second, civil matters are typically brought to the court by average citizens. For example, in a wrongful death civil suit, the surviving family members are usually the individuals who bring wrongful death claims to civil court. Conversely, criminal matters are brought to the court by either the state or the federal government. A state prosecutor, for example, might bring charges against a defendant for the crimes of murder or manslaughter.
Third, the degrees of proof are different in civil cases and criminal cases. In a wrongful death civil case, the judge or jury must be persuaded by a preponderance of the evidence (meaning it is more likely true than not) that the defendant’s actions caused the death. In criminal cases, the required level of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, which means that a defendant could be exonerated if there is any reasonable doubt that he is actually guilty of the acts he is accused of committing. This criminal level of proof is a very high standard for prosecutors and typically requires more extensive evidence than a civil trial does.
However, it should be noted that a wrongful death civil suit does not preclude a defendant from being held criminally liable for his actions. A defendant could be tried in civil court for his conduct and subsequently (or simultaneously) tried in criminal court for the same conduct. For example, in a drunk driving case that kills several people, the driver may have to defend himself in a civil wrongful death trial while simultaneously having to defend himself in a criminal manslaughter trial.
Do You Have a Potential Wrongful Death Claim? Speak to a Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Attorney
If your loved one died from an injury caused by another and you believe that you have a potential wrongful death claim, Rosen Injury Law, P.A. can help you obtain compensation for any damages that you and your loved one are entitled to. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys.