In Pennsylvania, when a person or a business directly contributes to the death of your loved one, you have the right to bring a civil lawsuit against that party. A wrongful death claim based on misconduct or negligence could give your family justice and provide compensation for the financial consequences you suffer after the loss of your loved one.
Wrongful death claims can help surviving family members replace lost wages and cover other expenses, like funeral costs. Some people worry that if there are criminal charges brought against the responsible party that those proceedings will impact their rights in civil court.
What bearing would criminal charges have on your civil case?
Successful criminal charges will bolster your claim
If your loved one died in a drunk-driving crash and the state successfully prosecutes the driver, then you will have a stronger overall case for compensation. The conviction of the responsible party establishes that they engaged in some kind of wrongful act. As long as you can connect that wrongful activity to your loved one’s death, their criminal charges will help strengthen your civil claim.
Failed prosecution doesn’t mean you can’t sue
If the charges aren’t successful, or if prosecutors declined to pursue charges against the person or business who caused your loss, you may still be in a position to bring a lawsuit. The standard of evidence is lower in a civil case. That means that even if there isn’t enough evidence to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, there may be enough evidence to support your civil claim.
Learning more about the process of a wrongful death claim can help your family seek justice.