October 18, 2021
The Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and a Criminal Case
Wrongful death involves the death of a loved one due to negligent or intentional conduct of another party. Often, such cases are treated as homicides by law enforcement, and the person responsible might be arrested and face charges of manslaughter or even murder. Many families assume that the criminal case will bring them sufficient justice and will eliminate the need to file a wrongful death case. Unfortunately, this is a mistaken belief.
If you tragically lost your spouse, child, or parent due to the actions of someone else, you should discuss your rights with a New Jersey wrongful death attorney who can advise you of the best course of action.
Criminal Charges and Penalties
Many causes of wrongful death can result in criminal charges in New Jersey, including:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Reckless driving
- Street racing
- Violent assaults
When someone faces criminal charges, the prosecutor must prove these charges beyond a reasonable doubt. If they succeed, the convicted offender can face many penalties, including jail time and fines. The court might order restitution to the family of the victim, but this often is insufficient to cover your family’s losses – if the offender is able to pay it at all.
Civil Wrongful Death Claims
A wrongful death case is filed by the family members – not the prosecutor. It is also filed in civil court, and it is a separate proceeding from the criminal case, with a separate judge. The goal of a criminal case is to punish the offender, but the focus of a civil case is to make the surviving family members whole again. Even though no amount of money can reunite you with your loved one, compensation can help you feel justice and move on with the financial security and support you need.
If an offender is convicted of an offense in criminal court, your lawyer can use that conviction to prove liability in your wrongful death case. With a conviction, you will not need additional evidence of negligence or wrongdoing.
Even if there is no conviction, however, you still have a chance to prevail in a civil claim. While the prosecutor has the highest burden of proof in criminal court, you have a lower burden of proof in a civil claim. Your attorney can use evidence – other than a conviction – to prove fault for your loved one’s death. This allows your family the chance of financial recovery, even if the responsible person is not criminally convicted.
Our Compassionate New Jersey Wrongful Death Attorneys Can Help
Wrongful death claims can be difficult, and the last thing your family needs is additional stress. If you have already gone through the trauma of a criminal case, you need the right legal help to file a wrongful death claim.
The New Jersey wrongful death lawyers of Varcadipane & Pinnisi, PC, are ready to help. Call (201) 588-1500 or contact us online, so we can evaluate the options available for you and your family.