Wrongful Death Vs. Homicide: Understanding the Difference

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Losing a loved one is never easy, but losing someone ahead of their time because of someone else’s negligence adds insult to injury. Wrongful death can occur because of a defective product, a car accident, medical malpractice, or a work injury. While the causes may differ, the result is the same—a loved one gone too soon.

Wrongful death may sound like a criminal inquiry, however, it is actually part of the civil tort system. Whereas homicide, manslaughter, and murder are tried through the criminal court system at the behest of a prosecutor, a wrongful death case is voluntarily filed by an aggrieved plaintiff. The victims of homicide, manslaughter, and murder are represented by the prosecutor who is attempting to seek justice for their deaths. In a wrongful death suit, the surviving family members of those filing a case in civil court must find a reputable Tampa wrongful death attorney to help them make their case.

Criminal Court or Civil Court

Because wrongful death suits and homicide cases are tried through different court systems, some of their processes differ. One of the biggest differences, in addition to who brings a case, is the amount of evidence needed.

In a criminal court case, a prosecutor must prove to a jury that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is a legal phrase that specifies the burden of proof. A prosecutor’s case must be able to leave no doubt in the jury’s mind. To do this, they’ll provide evidence and various witnesses.

In a civil case, a plaintiff must show that the defendant is liable by a “preponderance of evidence”. In a wrongful death case, that means most of the evidence points to the defendant being responsible for causing a death that could’ve been avoided.

A preponderance of evidence is a lower evidentiary burden than “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Some families who have been unable to find justice through the criminal court system have used this lower burden to find justice within the civil court system. The most famous incidence of this is the O.J. Simpson case. After he was found not guilty in the deaths of his wife and her friend, Simpson was sued in civil court by the families of the deceased. There, he was held liable for the deaths of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.

The Florida Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death

Florida has separate statutes of limitations for similar offenses in criminal and civil cases. Thankfully, Florida is lenient with their statute of limitations as they relate to wrongful death claims and criminal actions that result in death.

A wrongful death claim can be brought at any time in Florida and is not bound by a deadline. This is extremely helpful for families who are grieving. It is important, however, to note that filing sooner rather than later can be beneficial for a successful case.

In addition, a felony that results in death can also be tried at any time.

A Tampa Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You

If you’ve lost a loved one and feel someone else was responsible for their death, consulting with a Tampa personal injury lawyer who specializes in wrongful death suits can help you determine whether to move forward with a claim.

The criminal justice system isn’t the only way to receive justice. Filing a claim in civil court has its own merits, including a lower standard of evidence. With a skilled Tampa wrongful death attorney by your side, you may be able to receive compensation that can help remove or lessen your financial burden.

At the end of the day, someone you love is no longer here. Make sure that you and your surviving family members are taken care of in their absence. Old medical bills and funeral expenses shouldn’t hinder your grieving process. Speak to a Tampa personal injury lawyer today and learn more about your options.