A Civil Matter
While criminal courts determine guilt or a lack of guilt (not to be confused with actual innocence), what civil wrongful death cases determine is liability. This can be an important distinction, because even if a suspected murder turns out to be a freak accident, it could turn out that it happened because someone didn’t act responsibly and allowed a potentially deadly situation to exist.
For instance, let’s say that a brake line snaps in a woman’s car as she’s trying to slow down on a highway exit. Since she can’t stop, she hurtles into the intersection at the end of the off ramp and gets hit from the side, dying on impact. The police may suspect that the woman’s husband cut the brakes intentionally, and so they build a case against him. However, the husband’s lawyer proves that the brake line had frayed naturally, and so the case is thrown out.
Even with all criminal charges dropped, there may still be grounds for a wrongful death suit. Perhaps the fraying brake line is something her regular mechanic should have noticed, for instance, or it may be a known defect which the manufacturer never recalled because they wanted to avoid the expense. Just because no one was criminally responsible for someone’s death doesn’t mean that no one was at fault.
The most important fact regarding wrongful death suits is the fact that they involve compensating the survivors for their loss and not simply punishing the guilty party. Money is no real replacement for a lost loved one, but it’s better than nothing, and it can go a long way towards paying for funeral and hospital costs, lost income, and general pain and suffering.
Wrongful death suits will often wait for a criminal case to finish before starting up, because if the criminal jury hands down a guilty verdict the wrongful death case will most often be a matter of going through the motions with all the same evidence and witnesses. However, the civil case doesn’t necessarily have the same result as the criminal case. In one notorious example, O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of the deaths of his ex-wife and her boyfriend, but in the wrongful death case which followed he was found liable for both.
If your loved one has recently passed before his or her time, then whether or not there’s a criminal case ongoing you should contact a wrongful death lawyer to find out what your options are. If you live in the area of St. Petersburg, Florida, then you should contact the St. Pete Lawyer for a free case review. If someone is responsible for your loved one’s early end, then you deserve to get some restitution for your loss..