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The ins and outs of a wrongful death case

Many people are confused at how someone who avoids conviction on criminal charges like homicide for a person’s death can wind up being successfully sued for that person’s wrongful death in civil court.

Perhaps the most famous example in recent history is the O.J. Simpson case, in which Simpson was found not guilty of murder for the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend, Ron Goldman, yet was determined to be liable for both deaths at the civil trial later.

The reason for this apparent disparity is that there is a lower standard of proof in civil trials for wrongful death than in criminal trials. During criminal trials for homicide, the defendant must be found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But the standard is much lower in the civil component — guilt can be established by just “a preponderance of the evidence.”

While it might not be quite as satisfying to prevail in a wrongful death case as opposed to a criminal case where a convicted defendant would be sentenced to a long stint in prison for causing the death of your loved one, filing a lawsuit for wrongful death can bring some measure of justice to a grieving family.

It can also open the door to a potentially lucrative judgment award, which may be enhanced if the deceased individual experienced pain and suffering in the moments of consciousness after the injury but before he or she died.

Wrongful death cases don’t have to involve homicides, and in fact, most don’t. They can arise from car accidents, on-the-job injuries, falls, medical malpractice incidents and many other cases where another person’s negligence led to the individual’s demise.

If your family member lost his or her life because of another person’s negligence or actions, you may wish to pursue this legal avenue to civil justice.

Source:, “Wrongful Death Overview,” accessed Dec. 09, 2016

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