Innocent Of Murder: Can You Still Sue For Wrongful Death?
If one of your family members was killed by another person, that person was likely charged and tried for murder. However, charges and trials are not convictions, and even though that person might be responsible for the death of your family member, they could still get a "not guilty" verdict, after all, is said and done in criminal court.
Many people think that if the responsible person is declared innocent, there is nothing that can be done. However, you can still file a wrongful death lawsuit against them in civil court. Criminal convictions and results are not the same civil court proceedings, so even if the person is not guilty of murder, they might still be on the hook to pay damages because of wrongful death.
Here's what you need to know about bringing a case against a person who is also defending themselves against criminal homicide charges:
It's About Intent
Much of a murder case involves finding out the person's intent and their role in the death of the individual. Just because one person causes the death of another does not mean that they are instantly guilty of murder. Murder involves violent intent and often includes premeditation. There must be sufficient evidence to prove without any doubt that the perpetrator intended to end another person's life.
Accidents and even crimes where the intention was not the loss of life could be charged differently, and these are determined on a case by case basis by a jury and judge.
For example, if an individual trespassed on someone's property and vandalized it, and the paint or soap used in the crime caused a deadly allergic reaction, the trespasser probably will not be convicted of murder. The only way a murder charge would pass would be if the prosecutor could determine that the trespasser knew about the allergy beforehand and intentionally tried to poison the resident.
Wrongful Death Protects Families
To carry the trespassing example further, however, the civil court recognizes that the trespasser is not completely without fault. If it was not for the actions of trespassing and vandalism, the resident of the home would not have died. This is where wrongful death comes into play. Wrongful death allows families to recoup financial losses that come as a result of the death of a family member, including:
- funeral costs
- medical bills
- lost future income
- living injuries (some family members may need counseling or medical attention)
A wrongful death lawyer can give you more information on this topic.