No matter the circumstances, the death of a loved one can be a tragic event to experience. If you have lost a family member or spouse due to a person's senseless criminal conduct, then you may find yourself at a loss as what to do next. The pain doesn't end in an emotional sense, either. You may have relied on your loved one's income to provide financial stability in your household, or he or she may have been the primary caretaker of your children. Regardless of the individual circumstances of your case, if you find yourself struggling following the loss of a loved one in Washington or Oregon, you may be entitled to receive compensation from the person who caused your loved one's death to assist with some of the financial struggles which you are facing.
What is a Criminal Wrongful Death Lawsuit, and How does it Differ from a Civil Action?
When someone is killed by another person's criminal conduct, the deceased individuals' survivors may be able to recover compensation from the person who caused their loved one's death. Wrongful death actions are lawsuits which are meant to compensate the victim's survivors for the loss of their loved one.
A criminal wrongful death action differs from a civil wrongful death lawsuit in several ways. Whereas a civil action is brought by the survivors of the deceased individual, a criminal wrongful death action is brought by a government prosecutor. A criminal wrongful death action also differs from a civil wrongful death lawsuit in that the person who caused the death has a right to an attorney. If the person being sued for wrongful death cannot afford an attorney, then he or she will be appointed an attorney to defend them in the wrongful death action.
In a criminal wrongful death action, the individual who caused your loved one's death faces more forms of punishment than he or she would face in a civil wrongful death lawsuit. A person on trial for criminal wrongful death may face time in prison and community service. Like a civil lawsuit, a person who has caused a wrongful death could also face financial fines. Instead of being referred to as "damages," as in a criminal case, financial compensation that is awarded to survivors of a deceased individual in a wrongful death action is called "restitution." Regardless of the term used, both forms are meant to provide financial compensation to an individual for the loss of their loved one.
When a person is accused of criminal wrongful death, such charges must be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt." This is a higher standard of proof than in a civil case, where accusations of wrongful death must only be proven by a "preponderance of the evidence." In other words, it may be more difficult to convict an individual in a criminal wrongful death case than it would be to find that a person caused another individual's wrongful death in a civil action.
Who is Eligible to Recover from a Criminal Wrongful Death Action?
Whether a person has standing, or eligibility, to receive compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one depends on the state in which the person was killed. In Washington, a deceased individual's husband, wife, partner, child, or step-child may recover for the wrongful death of a loved one. Oregon's laws are even broader regarding who can recover compensation from a wrongful death action; in Oregon, along with a spouse, child, or step-child, a person may recover compensation from a wrongful death action if they would inherit from the deceased individual's estate under intestacy laws--in other words, if a person would be eligible to inherit from an individual had he or she died without a will, then they may be eligible to recover damages on a criminal wrongful death lawsuit.
What Damages Can I Recover from a Criminal Wrongful Death Action?
If you have lost someone you love due to another person's wrongful criminal conduct, then you may be awarded restitution in a criminal wrongful death action. Restitution can compensate you for a variety of struggles related to your loved one's death, including the following.
- Funeral costs which you had to pay for your loved one.
- Medical expenses which you may be facing after your loved one's death.
- Pain and suffering that you are experiencing as a result of your loved one's death.
- Loss of your loved one's income if you relied on such income to provide financial stability.
- Loss of love, affection, and companionship which your loved one provided.
Contact an Attorney as Soon as Possible
If you are mourning the loss of someone you cared about, a lawsuit may be the furthest thing from your mind. In the case of a wrongful death, however, it is important to contact an attorney quickly in order to ensure that you have standing to file a lawsuit. Time to file a wrongful death lawsuit is not unlimited; time limits called "statutes of limitations" exist which dictate how long one has to file a lawsuit following the death of a loved one. These statutes of limitations can vary from state to state, and often vary depending on the circumstances of your case. After a statute of limitations has passed, it can be extremely difficult--if not impossible--to file a lawsuit. Thus, it is critical to contact an attorney as soon as possible in order to ensure that you are eligible to bring an action against the wrongdoer who caused your loved one's death.
Thinking of Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit? We're Here to Help
If you have lost someone you cared for due to another person's criminal misconduct, you deserve justice for your loved one's death. While a criminal trial for the wrongdoer's conduct may impose a prison sentence to punish the person for your loved one's death, such a trial will not provide any compensation to you for your loss. A criminal trial for wrongful death, however, may be able to provide you with compensation to account for the financial struggles you may be facing following the injustice which you suffered.
The team of experienced attorneys at Schauermann Thayer Jacobs Edwards & Staples' Vancouver, Washington office have years of experience representing clients who lost a loved one due to another individual's wrongful actions. Wrongful death lawsuits are not actions which should be fought alone; these actions can become very complicated, and one slight misstep could jeopardize your chances of a successful case. Take the stress of a lawsuit off of your shoulders and let our attorneys do the fighting for you. To take the next step toward justice for the loss of your loved one, fill out an online form or call (360) 695-4244 today.