If you are a Louisiana resident who recently lost a loved one due to someone’s negligence or misconduct, you may be thinking about bringing a wrongful death lawsuit against the person or entity responsible for your loved one’s death. You also may be unclear about the differences between your suing someone civilly for wrongful death and the state prosecuting him or her criminally for the same death, such as would occur if your loved one was murdered or died during a robbery attempt.
FindLaw explains that the burden of proof is higher in a criminal prosecution. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty of committing the act that caused your loved one’s death. In a wrongful death action, however, you need to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was responsible for the death.
The other major difference between a criminal prosecution and a wrongful death suit is the type of penalty available. A criminal defendant could spend many years in prison if a judge and jury find him or her guilty of causing the death. A civil defendant, on the other hand, is never sent to prison. If you win your wrongful death lawsuit, the defendant(s) will be required to pay you money damages for the economic losses you have suffered as a result of your loved one’s death.
Proving wrongful death
To bring a wrongful death action, you must be a close family member of the decedent and/or the personal representative of his or her estate. You will need to prove the following four things at trial:
- Your loved one died.
- His or her death was caused by the defendant’s negligence or intent to cause him or her harm.
- You and/or other surviving family members have suffered economic harm because of the death.
- A personal representative has been appointed for your loved one’s estate.
This information is presented to help you understand the wrongful death process and what to expect. It should not be taken as legal advice.