Understanding The Difference Between A Wrongful Death And Murder

When your family member suffers death because of an accident caused by another party, you may be confused about whether to file a case of wrongful death or murder. Both the cases are filed after someone’s death, but there are key differences between them. It is important to better understand which action would suit your case to avoid rejections or delays. 

The personal injury law area is very complex and certainly not something an inexperienced person can learn in a few days. A Stockton wrongful death attorney can help you figure out your next steps and bring the justice your family needs. 

Wrongful death vs. Murder

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action. It claims that the plaintiff’s family member has died due to the defendant’s actions, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Here, the result does not directly lead to imprisonment and can settle with monetary compensation. 

In the case of murder, it is called a criminal lawsuit or criminal case. It means that the defendant has caused the death with criminal intent. Murder is when one person kills another on purpose and has planned the entire process. In such cases, the result is almost always incarceration or a death sentence. 

One big difference between a wrongful death and murder case is that the latter is not filed by the victim’s family but the state. The state files a criminal charge claiming that the person has engaged in illegal and criminal activity. 

The burden of proof

There is a vast difference between the burden of proof for wrongful death and murder case. In a wrongful death case, the victim is responsible for providing evidence indicating that the defendant is at least 51% responsible for the death. In a murder case, the burden of proof is greater, but it falls on the state government. The government must prove that the defendant is responsible “beyond a reasonable doubt.” 

If the defendant is found guilty, they are either sentenced to jail or hanged to death. 


Since the differences are quite complex and can be difficult to understand for some people, let us take an example. A drunk driver hitting another vehicle and causing the driver’s death may be seen as a wrongful death case. However, when the same driver purposefully stabs another driver with a knife, it is clearly a case of murder. 

Of course, there might be way more complex cases than the example. That is why it is important to retain an attorney. An attorney in Stockton can investigate your situation and tell you whether you should file a murder or wrongful death case. No matter which one you file, you need the assistance of an attorney in both of them. 

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