When someone passes away due to another person’s actions, it might be considered murder or wrongful death. But what are the differences and why do they matter to surviving loved ones? Below is a brief guide to the distinctions between the two legal terms and their significance to those left behind.
Under criminal law, murder is the act of one person killing another illegally. The action may be intentional or done with depraved disregard for human life, such as shooting a rifle into a house while knowing someone is inside. Murder can also be unintentional; for instance, by killing someone while committing a felony, such as arson, rape, or robbery.
District attorneys working for the state prosecute these cases with the goal of protecting the public and punishing individual defendants. Prosecutors must prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, sentencing varies by state. In Georgia, for instance, it can range anywhere between one to five years for involuntary manslaughter, up to 20 years if voluntary, and 30 years to life if done with malice or as part of a felony.
Under civil law, a wrongful death occurs when a person, business, or company commits a negligent, intentional, reckless, or criminal act causing someone’s death. Surviving family members hire private attorneys to file wrongful death claims on behalf of loved ones’ estates for items including funeral bills, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. Families also seek financial compensation for the full value of a deceased person’s life, such as lost earnings, and loss of marital and parental relationships.
Wrongful deaths can result from medical malpractice, car accidents, and defective products. To recover money damages at trial, attorneys must prove the defendant’s fault by a preponderance of evidence, which means it is likelier than not the defendant committed an act leading to death. The standard is easier to meet than that demanded in criminal cases.
Backed by over 40 years of experience in personal injury and criminal law cases, attorneys at Reynolds, Horne & Survant in Macon-Bibb, GA, offer skilled and passionate representation to individuals who need defense in murder cases and who have lost loved ones to wrongful death, including medical malpractice. If you have a claim to pursue on behalf of a family member, these lawyers will fight to obtain full compensation for their clients. Call (800) 537-3238 to schedule a consultation, or visit the website for more information about their practice and expertise.