Is a Wrongful Death Claim Considered a Crime?
Understanding Wrongful Death Lawsuits In Arizona
Wrongful death is a confusing and emotional time for everyone involved. Although wrongful death is not a crime in itself, it may involve a crime that caused or was associated with the person’s death. The circumstances that lead to a wrongful death lawsuit might implicate the party at-fault to criminal charges in a separate court proceeding. Additionally, the person who is responsible for the wrongful death may be convicted of a crime related to the death.
A wrongful death action is a civil action, not a criminal one, in which a person holds another person responsible for causing a wrongful death for their failure to do something that would have prevented the death. When someone dies as a result of another person’s negligent behavior, the family may qualify for compensation for the damages they suffer due to the loss. Families can file wrongful death lawsuits on their own, but working with an experienced Mesa personal injury lawyer can result in a more successful case outcome and ensure that the lawsuit is filed within the required time frame following the death.
Civil Law Vs. Criminal Law
The United States justice system consists of two separate bodies of law. Many cases overlap and end up in both courts, but they serve different purposes, processes, and outcomes. Essentially, criminal law refers to crimes and punishments, while civil law involves the private rights of an individual.
Wrongful death crimes do not exist because wrong death cases occur in civil court, not criminal court. In a civil court proceeding, families of the deceased can sue an individual accused of causing their loved one’s death. The goal of a wrongful death lawsuit is to obtain financial compensation from the individual.
In order to prove negligence and successfully win the case on behalf of the deceased’s family, a Mesa injury lawyer must prove that:
- The defendant had a duty of care to the decedent
- The defendant breached their duty of care
- Their breach of duty led to the death of the decedent
- Their death led to significant financial damages for the family or the estate
In civil cases, decedents and survivors have an opportunity to seek compensation for injuries that were caused by someone else. If the defendant meets the legal criteria for negligence, the plaintiff may qualify for financial compensation.
In contrast to civil cases, which work to resolve disputes between two parties, criminal cases involve an individual’s offenses against the government. Civil cases often force the defendant to pay compensation, while criminal cases frequently result in probation, incarceration, community service, fines, and other penalties.
Civil & Criminal Litigation May Overlap
Sometimes, the situation involving the wrongful death results in criminal charges for the defendant. But regardless of the verdict in the criminal case, a decedent’s family may also choose to pursue charges in civil court to pursue financial recovery. These financial damages can be extensive, especially if the deceased was responsible for minor children, was a primary caregiver, or was the sole financial provider for their family.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case
Exactly who can file a wrongful death suit depends on the state law. In Arizona, the people who can legally file a wrongful death suit include the surviving spouse and children of the deceased, their parent or guardian, the deceased’s personal representative or the representative of the deceased’s spouse, child, parent, or guardian. Parents of deceased children can also file a claim. The wrongful death suit must be filed within two years of the death. A Mesa wrongful death attorney can help families work through the details of filing a wrongful death suit, which can be an emotional and overwhelming task, help obtain the highest possible payment, and meet all necessary deadlines in the process.
Damages In a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The types and amount of awards that are potentially available for families depend on the circumstances of the situation, including the extent of the financial damages and long-term effects on the family. Payments that qualify under wrongful death may include:
- Medical bills related to the deceased’s final treatment
- Lost wages and future income
- Loss of companionship or caregiver
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Replacement or repair of property damaged in the situation, if applicable
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer To Take Legal Action
Wrongful death claims are civil actions, not crimes, but you may still be able to hold the party responsible for causing the death of your loved one. If you lost a close relative due to the negligence of another person, Mesa Injury Lawyers may be able to help you pursue financial compensation for damages caused by your loss. Contact our office to schedule your free consultation.