Wrongful Death

Wrongful death is a claim in common law jurisdictions against a person who can be held liable for a death. The claim is brought in a civil action, usually by close relatives.

The standard of proof in the United States is typically preponderance of the evidence as opposed to clear and convincing or beyond a reasonable doubt.  For this reason it is often easier for a family to seek retribution against someone who kills a family member through tort than a criminal prosecution.  However, the two actions are not mutually exclusive; a person may be prosecuted criminally for causing a person’s death (whether in the form of murder, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, or some other theory) and that person can also be sued civilly in a wrongful death action.  Wrongful death is also the only recourse available in the United States when a company, not an individual, causes the death of a person; for example, families have tried (both successfully and unsuccessfully) to sue tobacco companies for wrongful deaths of their customers.