How is a wrongful death case different from a murder case?

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2023 | Wrongful Death

The sudden death of a family member caused by someone else’s actions can ruin your entire life. You may never emotionally recover and might experience significant financial ruin.

Louisiana allows you to file a wrongful death action in this type of situation. Under Louisiana law, wrongful death is a death that occurs due to the fault of another.

Many people get confused between a wrongful death lawsuit and a murder charge. After all, isn’t the goal of both actions the same, which is to hold the other party accountable?

Courts and penalties

There are a few main differences between a wrongful death case and a murder case. First, the actions are brought in different courts. A wrongful death lawsuit is brought in civil court, while a murder case is brought in criminal court.

Second, the potential penalties are different. The only penalty imposed in a wrongful death case is financial compensation, which is called damages.

A wrongful death case is like a personal injury case. If you successfully prove wrongful death, the defendant is required to pay you money damages.

There are many more potential penalties in a criminal case. While fines can be imposed, the defendant can also be sentenced to jail or prison time, probation or other penalties, depending on the specific type of murder charge.

Legal standards

Third, as most people are aware from watching television or movies, in a criminal case, the prosecution must prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This is a high standard to meet. The standard is lower in a wrongful death lawsuit, where you must prove the defendant is liable by a preponderance of the evidence.

A preponderance of the evidence standard means you must show it is most likely that the defendant is responsible for the death. Additionally, the defendant is found liable rather than guilty.

Attorneys involved

Since they are two different lawsuits, it is possible for a murder charge and wrongful death claim to be brought at the same time.

Prosecutors handle the murder charge, while attorneys focusing their practice on civil matters take care of the wrongful death charge.