While both wrongful death and criminal homicide involve the death of an individual, there are distinct differences in the terms of court proceedings that separate the two.
During a wrongful death lawsuit, the estate of the deceased attempts to recover damages in a civil court proceeding. Criminal homicide cases involve criminal court proceedings during which a state prosecution seeks a prison sentence for the accused. Both proceedings can occur for the same death.
In a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must prove the defendant is liable (more likely than not) by a preponderance of evidence. However, in a criminal homicide lawsuit, the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This results in a higher burden of proof than in a civil court proceeding for wrongful death.
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