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Wrongful Death Versus Homicide

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, LLC, one of the areas we’re most proud of is our wrongful death services. We have a fantastic 98 percent success rate in getting surviving victims their maximum compensation, and you can rest assured knowing you have a wrongful death attorney fighting for you.

We regularly see bits of confusion from clients when it comes to the details of a wrongful death case. Many simply assume that, like homicide or manslaughter, it’s a criminal charge tried through the criminal court system – in reality, this is not the case. Wrongful death is part of the civil tort system. What does that mean, and what are some of the important differences?

Who Files

The biggest up-front difference between wrongful death and a homicide case is who files the charges. Criminal acts like murder, manslaughter and other homicides are brought by a prosecutor, then tried by a criminal court system at this prosecutor’s behest (barring a settlement, that is).

On the flip side, wrongful death cases are brought voluntarily by a plaintiff. These are most commonly surviving family members of the deceased looking to get due compensation for the death.

Amount of Evidence

The different court systems these areas are tried in come with very different levels of evidence required. Criminal cases require proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” – this is a high burden of proof that allows for no doubt left in the mind of a jury. Attorneys in this realm use evidence and witnesses to attempt to make this case to the jury.

With a civil case, though, the bar for proof is lower. The plaintiff’s goal is to prove that the defendant is liable based on a “preponderance of evidence,” which simply means that most evidence must point to the defendant being responsible for causing an avoidable death.

Due to these differing levels of proof, wrongful death cases are more likely to succeed than homicide cases. Some families who don’t get the verdict they want through the criminal justice system will find it later through a wrongful death case.

Statute of Limitations

Another big difference between wrongful death cases and homicides or other criminal charges is the statute of limitations. With very few exceptions, major crimes like murder or homicide have no statute of limitations – they can be investigated and tried at any point in time, regardless of how long ago the event took place.

Wrongful death cases, though, often do have a statute of limitations. In Utah, this statute requires that wrongful death claims be filed within two years of the death, or within one year if the claim is being filed against any government entity.

For more on wrongful death cases versus homicides and other criminal charges, or to learn about any of our personal injury attorney services, speak to the pros at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, LLC today.


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