In an earlier post, we discussed how the standard of proof required in a civil case makes it easier to get a wrongful death verdict for the plaintiff than it is for a prosecutor to get a conviction for murder in a criminal case.
However, that’s not the only reason you might want to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of a loved one you believe was murdered. There are a few other important considerations.
— A wrongful death claim can sometimes draw out new evidence to that investigators can use to continue to develop the criminal case.
Unlike criminal defendants, civil defendants are obligated to give evidence against themselves all the time. Civil attorneys can force a defendant to give a deposition — something that can’t be done during a criminal trial — which may bring new information to light or at least tell police they’re on the right track.
For example, the family of a Texas man who died of a gunshot wound to the chest in the presence of his girlfriend recently filed their wrongful death claim, in part, to force the girlfriend to respond to some probing questions. She asserted her right against self-incrimination in order to avoid answering — which can only be done in a civil case if there’s a possibility that what the defendant would be forced to admit could lead to criminal charges.
— Filing a wrongful death claim in civil court now doesn’t stop the authorities from filing a murder charge on the same case later.
In addition, everything said during the civil trial becomes a matter of record and can be used in the criminal trial as evidence.
The defendant may very well forget that fact and slip up — saying something in the civil trial that contradicts what he or she has already told police during their investigations. That could be another way that police eventually find the evidence they need to convict your loved one’s killer.
Filing a wrongful death claim over an intentional death can sometimes serve more than one purpose. It can allow you to collect financial compensation for your loss, and it can also be a tactical maneuver to help eventually bring a killer to justice.
An attorney can help you learn more about filing a wrongful death claim over the intentional death of another to see if it serves your ultimate goals.
Source: FindLaw, “The Differences between a Criminal Case and a Civil Case,” accessed April 24, 2017