A murder charge is considered a criminal offense, so the defendant must go through a criminal case. In a murder case, the judge or jury must prove that the defendant committed the crime “without a reasonable doubt.” This means that the verdict must be unanimous throughout the jury, and the courts must be provided with evidence that undoubtedly puts the defendant at fault. The verdict of criminal murder cases are either guilty or not guilty, and decide whether or not there will be a murder conviction.
Wrongful death lawsuits may be filed when a defendant has shown any form of negligence or carelessness that ended a life, and may be filed against any person accused of murder. Wrongful death lawsuits are considered civil cases, and can only prove whether a defendant is liable for the death. Evidence in a civil case must provide the burden of proof by a “preponderance of evidence.” So, in a wrongful death lawsuit for murder, over half of the jury must give a verdict of the liability of the defendant. This makes wrongful death lawsuits easier for the success of the plaintiff, but only provides compensation for the family; no criminal charges or jail time may be given to the defendant if he or she is proven liable of murder in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Can you file a wrongful death suit if the defendant was proved not guilty?
Yes. Even if the defendant did not receive a murder conviction in criminal court, families of the victim still have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the accused murder. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant will not lead to any criminal penalties though. Since wrongful death lawsuits are civil cases, plaintiffs can only receive compensation from the defendant. Compensation may be awarded for both emotional distress and financial loss due to the murder of the victim. Actually receiving the compensation requested by the plaintiff may prove to be difficult, though.
One of the most famous circumstances where a defendant received a verdict of not guilty in criminal court and was still found liable in a wrongful death lawsuit is the civil case of O.J. Simpson. Although Simpson was found liable for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman in the civil case, it does not necessarily mean that he was proven guilty of the murders. Simpson did not face criminal charges for the murders and did not receive any jail time, but the courts did find him liable in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Goldman family. He was court ordered to pay the Goldman family $70 million in compensation for the wrongful death of Ron Goldman, but the Goldman family claims that Simpson has refused to pay due to “lack of sufficient funds.”
Contact an Experienced Law Firm Today
Losing a loved one to a wrongful death is traumatic and stressful for all friends and family members. It is even more distressing when the person accused of murder is found not guilty in criminal court, but fortunately a civil lawsuit may be filed even after the verdict of the criminal case. If you believe your loved one suffered a wrongful death due to a murder, please contact a Woodland Hills wrongful death lawyer today.
An understanding team of attorneys should have experience in wrongful death lawsuits that follow verdicts of both guilty and not guilty. They should strive to help families recover any compensation for both emotional trauma and financial loss caused by a murder, and should do everything in their abilities to help advise you on the necessary steps to take during the court process. Although compensation can not bring back the life of a loved one, it may help bring much needed closure to families and friends of the departed.
Thank you to our contributors at the law offices of Barry P. Goldberg for the above information.