What is the difference between murder and wrongful death?

September 20, 2009

The O.J. Simpson criminal case and subsequent wrongful death lawsuit left many people confused. You can be tried for murder and then, even if you’re found innocent, be sued for the person’s death?

It does sound a lot like double jeopardy, and the 5th amendment states we cannot be tried for the same crime twice. The difference in O.J. Simpson’s case, and in cases like his, is that he wasn’t being tried twice for a crime. Murder is a crime, while wrongful death, on the other hand, is a tort. One was a criminal case and one was a civil lawsuit.

Murder is a type of wrongful death, but not all wrongful deaths are murders. For example, a patient may die because of a doctor’s negligence, which is malpractice. The doctor didn’t murder the patient, but the doctor can still be sued for wrongful death.

Murder is an intentional act, while some wrongful deaths are the result of an accident. For instance, if ABC Grocery Store neglects to clean up a puddle of water down one of the aisles, and a person slips, hits their head on the ground and dies as a result, ABC has not committed murder. They may be found responsible for the death in a civil lawsuit because they were negligent in failing to mop up the puddle, but they the store obviously didn’t intend for someone to be killed.

Another major difference between murder and wrongful death is that murder charges are brought by the state against the defendant, not by the victim of the crime. On the other hand, the family members of a wrongful death victim are the ones who initiate a wrongful death lawsuit.

Also, a murder conviction can (and usually does) result in a prison sentence or, in more rare instances, the death penalty. A defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit is punished by having to pay the victim’s family members a certain amount of financial compensation.

Fears | Nachawati is a team of Texas wrongful death lawyers who help the families of deceased accident victims. If you have lost a loved one in an accident, contact us today for free legal assistance. You can contact us by email us at info@fnlawfirm.com or call us on our toll-free number at 1.866.705.7584.



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