If you have lost a loved one due to the actions (or inaction) of another person or persons, you may be considering a wrongful death lawsuit. You may also be wondering whether a manslaughter trial affects your ability to pursue and win a wrongful death lawsuit. You may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against someone who has been convicted or acquitted of manslaughter.
Wrongful Death and Manslaughter Definitions
Manslaughter is a criminal charge. New Jersey statutes define manslaughter as being a death caused by the reckless actions of one person, or a death caused by a person trying to elude law enforcement.
Wrongful death is a civil lawsuit brought on behalf of the decedent’s estate seeking compensation for a death caused by deliberate action or negligence on the part of another person. The action could be recklessness that might lead to a manslaughter charge, deliberate acts of murder, or common negligence, such as failing to put the parking brake on a vehicle that then rolls and causes a fatal accident.
Who Files Manslaughter and Wrongful Death Suits?
A manslaughter case is brought by the State of New Jersey or municipal governments on behalf of “the people.” The goal is solely to punish the wrongdoer, which may be done with a combination of a jail or prison term, community service, or fines paid to the state.
A wrongful death lawsuit is brought by the executor of the decedent’s estate. It is brought on behalf of the decedent, but generally to benefit the relatives that have been left behind. Every state is different as to what damages may be claimed. In New Jersey, you can only claim actual economic losses, such as loss of future earning and medical expenses, and the pain and suffering of the decedent. You cannot make claims for your emotional suffering.
Different Standards of Proof for Wrongful Death and Manslaughter
Because manslaughter is a criminal charge, it must be proven beyond reasonable doubt, which is a relatively high standard of proof. Wrongful death, on the other hand, must only be shown by a preponderance (or substantial majority) of evidence. This is a lower standard of evidence
Because of the lower standard of proof for wrongful death, it is common for people to be acquitted of manslaughter or murder, but be forced to pay wrongful death damages.
Are You Considering a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
If you are considering a wrongful death lawsuit, you must act rapidly to preserve your legal rights. Wrongful death has a statute of limitations of 2 years from the date of your loved one’s death. To make sure you don’t miss that deadline, you should talk to a lawyer soon about your legal rights and options.
To learn more about wrongful death lawsuits in New Jersey, please contact us for a free initial consultation today.