In the wake of a tragic and preventable death, people often look to the criminal court as a source of justice for both the deceased and their surviving loved ones. However, not every act of negligence or wrongdoing winds up prosecuted by the state.
There are many reasons why someone who causes a death may not face criminal charges, but regardless of the reason, the surviving family members affected by the incident will likely still want justice. Pursuing a wrongful death claim against the party responsible for the situation that cost the life of your loved one maybe the best way to seek justice if the criminal courts do not or can’t.
Not all wrongful deaths technically stem from a crime
In Washington, the law defines a wrongful death as a fatality that stems from someone’s neglect, default (failure to act) or wrongful act, such as breaking the law. In other words, criminal acts are not the only reason for someone to seek wrongful death compensation.
In a situation where the state deems that the circumstances related to the death of your loved one did not constitute a crime or even criminal negligence, a wrongful death lawsuit may be your best option for holding that person responsible.
There’s a different standard for evidence in the civil courts
When a prosecutor tries to convince a jury or judge that a defendant is guilty of a criminal offense, they need to have evidence that convinces the judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt. That is an extremely high standard for evidence that can be difficult to meet in certain circumstances.
On the other hand, the standard for successful civil lawsuit against someone who causes injury to another is merely that the preponderance of evidence supports their claim. If more evidence supports your version of events than the version of events asserted by the defendant who caused your tragic loss, you may have a strong case for pursuing compensation.
Even if there isn’t enough evidence for the state to bring criminal charges or successfully prosecute them, you may be able to successfully bring a wrongful death claim against that other person, thereby securing some justice both for you as a surviving family member and your deceased loved one as the victim.