Brad Pistotnik Law
Abogado El Toro

A Wrongful Death Claim is Different from a Murder Criminal Case

Wrongful death lawsuits began because of the effect the loss of a income earner has on a family when they no longer have a provider to help pay for their home and basic needs. Because of this, a legal remedy was created over time to hold the party responsible in a civil manner for the loss of that income earner when it could have been avoided. Today, a wrongful death attorney can bring a legal case when someone has been killed either due to someone else’s bad behavior or their negligence that was clearly avoidable.

While a high majority of wrongful death cases are associated with civil recovery in a criminal murder or manslaughter case, some cases stem from traditional negligence or gross misconduct that is not criminal in nature. The difference between the criminal and civil side of the same issue is the burden of proof. While the criminal case needs to be proven beyond a doubt, the civil case only needs to be reasonably proven. The two types of legal cases are not automatically connected in every situation.

A well-known example of a wrongful death case made after a murder case was in the situation of O.J. Simpson. While he was found innocent of murder of his ex-wife, Simpson was successfully sued by his ex-wife’s family for wrongful death. Since the burden of proof was less, the court found Simpson responsible and punished him civilly with a large financial penalty.

It’s important to remember that not everyone can file a wrongful death case for someone killed. The plaintiff needs to be directly connected or a personal representative of the dead person’s legal entity or estate. Usually that tends to be a spouse, child or next of kin. Each state has slightly different rules on the matter of having an experienced attorney manage the case. It is critical to not make a technical mistake. Wrongful death cases can also be combined with other actions, such as personal injury, emotional distress, conversion (taking property wrongfully) and even fraud. When awards are recovered, they become part of the deceased’s estate and then to the next of kin per the will or estate plan.

A realistically successful wrongful death case must have specific elements in it to be carried in court and not thrown out right away. These include:

  • Someone has died.
  • The death was due to the negligence of the defendant or due to the defendant intending to harm the person (for example, someone intending to beat up a victim but accidentally killing him).
  • There are surviving family members who have suffered from the loss of the deceased
  • There is a personal representative of the dead person’s estate.

Again, a wrongful death does not have to be a singular issue. It can be combined with other injuries and claims. Frequently, these types of cases occur in vehicle accidents, medical mistakes, death due to criminal acts, and workplace accidents.

If you or a loved one needs help from a wrongful death attorney in the Wichita, Kansas area, then it's important to rely on an experienced advocate. Call or email Brad Pistotnik Law anytime 24 hours a day at 1-800-241-BRAD or at 316-684-4400 or on his cell at 316-706-5020. His depth and knowledge as a wrongful death attorney can make a huge difference in the case's success.