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What makes wrongful death different from homicide?

On Behalf of | Jul 4, 2024 | Wrongful Death |

Losing a loved one is always a difficult experience, but it can be incredibly challenging when someone else’s actions cause their death. Those left by the deceased often grapple with the legalities of the situation. Two terms that tend to cause confusion are ‘wrongful death’ and ‘homicide’. While both refer to a death caused by another’s actions, they are distinct in their legal contexts and consequences.

What is wrongful death?

Wrongful death is a term used to describe a death resulting from the negligence or misconduct of another person or entity. A wrongful death is a civil case. This could range from medical malpractice to a fatal car accident caused by a reckless driver. The direct family members or the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death claim, seeking compensation for their loss.

The burden of proof in a wrongful death lawsuit is typically lower than in a criminal case. To prove wrongful death, you must demonstrate that the death was caused by negligence through evidence such as medical records, expert testimonies and witness statements. The penalties involve monetary damages, aiming to provide financial relief to the affected family. These damages can cover medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of future income and loss of companionship.

What is homicide?

On the other hand, homicide falls under criminal law. It refers to the killing of one person by another. Homicide can be further categorized into various degrees of murder and manslaughter, depending on the circumstances of the death.

The state pursues the homicide case, not the survivors of the deceased. The penalties can include imprisonment, fines, or in some cases, the death penalty. The burden of proof is higher in these cases, requiring evidence ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ The evidence for killing a person must be so strong that jurors have no reasonable doubts about the defendant’s guilt.

Navigating the legal landscape

Understanding the difference between wrongful death and homicide can be crucial when dealing with a tragic situation. While both involve a death caused by another’s actions, they differ significantly in their legal contexts, burdens of proof and potential penalties. If you have lost a loved one due to another person’s actions, it may be essential to consult with a legal professional to understand your available course of action based on the case’s specific circumstances.