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What is the difference between a criminal case and a civil wrongful death claim?

There are many differences but the most important are: who pursues the claim, the burden of proof, and the verdict sought. A criminal case is brought by the government (state or federal), but a wrongful death case is brought by the family of the deceased. The burden of proof is also lower in civil cases. In a criminal case the verdict must be supported by evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but a civil case has a lower standard. In civil cases the burden of proof is called “preponderance of the evidence,” which means more likely than not. Although criminal and civil cases can both seek money from the Defendant, in a criminal case, the primary punishment sought is jail time for the defendant. The monetary judgments in criminal cases are much smaller than those in civil because they are not the primary punishment and are not intended to compensate the loved ones of the deceased for their losses. In a civil case, we seek money damages for the losses of the family members of the deceased. In many cases you would not be able to prove that the Defendant intended the harm, but you can prove they were negligent in causing it; therefore, you could get a civil verdict when you may not be able to get a criminal verdict.

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