As a Salt Lake City wrongful death lawyer office, we often see confusion when it comes to how a wrongful death case works. Many people assume that it leads to a criminal charge, like manslaughter or homicide. However, wrongful death cases are not part of the criminal court system. Instead, they belong in the civil tort system. So, what are the important differences?
Who Files the Charges
This is the biggest difference between a homicide and wrongful death. While manslaughter, murder, and other homicides are charges brought by a prosecutor and tried in the criminal court system, wrongful death cases are voluntarily brought by the plaintiff and tried in civil court. The plaintiff is usually a surviving family member of the deceased who is trying to obtain compensation and justice for the death.
There’s a Statute of Limitations
The second difference between homicide and wrongful death is the statute of limitations. Major crimes like homicide and murder usually have no time limitations. They can be investigated and brought to court no matter how long ago the crime took place, with very few exceptions. Wrongful death cases in Utah, however, require a claim to be filed through a competent Salt Lake City wrongful death attorney within the first two years after the death occurs. If you’re bringing charges against a government agency, the claim must be filed within a single year.
How Much Evidence Is Needed
Because these cases take place in different court systems, they have very different requirements for the amount of evidence needed to prove the claim. In a criminal case such as a homicide, the prosecutor must prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This means a high burden of proof that leaves no doubt of guilt in the minds of the jury. Because of this, the prosecutor needs to use expert witnesses and ample evidence to make their case to the jury.
A civil case, though, lowers the bar for proof. The plaintiff is only required to prove the defendant is liable according to a preponderance of evidence, meaning most, but not all, of the evidence must show the defendant is responsible for causing a preventable death.
Because the burden of proof is lower for a wrongful death case, it’s easier to win than a homicide case, but this isn’t to say the process is simple. Wrongful death suits are still harder to prove than other personal injury cases, so it’s important to work with a capable lawyer. While it can never completely ease the mind of the family who has lost a loved one, a wrongful death case can bring them some semblance of closure, and appropriate compensation, when they don’t get the verdict they want in a criminal courtroom.
If you’re not satisfied with the outcome of a murder case after the death of a family member, Jardine Law Offices P.C., P.C., can help. We have years of experience proving complex wrongful death suits and bringing justice to our clients. Contact our offices for a Salt Lake City wrongful death attorney who can walk you through the process of investigation and attempt to get you the compensation you deserve.