Losing a loved one is always devastating, but it can stir up even more anger and frustration when the loss of life was due to a criminal act. That is what the family of a woman learned after her husband shot her in the head while she was sleeping. Now, over three years since the shooting, a judge has approved a multi million settlement in a wrongful death case against the husband filed by woman’s estate. The case is an interesting one because it highlights the difference between criminal trials and wrongful death lawsuits.
Criminals Trials vs. Wrongful Death Claims
When a person commits a crime, they are charged and can plead guilty or not guilty. If they plead not guilty, they will go to trial in front of a jury and have a chance to prove their innocence. Regardless of what a person pleads, if they are convicted of the crime, they will then face certain penalties including jail time, high fines, probation, and a permanent criminal record. In the recent story, the man was found guilty of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.
Even when a guilty verdict is given at trial, the penalties a person will face are meant to pay restitution to the state. The penalties will not provide any compensation for the family. For loved ones to receive compensation for their loss, they must file a wrongful death claim so the estate can claim damages, and a survival claim so family members can receive compensation for their loss. Through these claims, the estate and loved ones can recover damages for funeral and burial expenses, loss of income the deceased contributed to a household, loss of household services, loss of love and companionship, and more.
The Impact of a Criminal Conviction
Many people think that when a guilty verdict has been issued in criminal court, it will automatically help them in their wrongful death case. That is not entirely true. Criminal and civil cases are completely separate from each other and a result in one case will not necessarily affect the other.
However, this does not mean that a lawyer bringing a wrongful death suit will not use certain evidence from a criminal case to help prove a claim. Some of the strongest evidence to come out of a criminal case includes police reports, witness statements, doctors’ reports, forensic evidence, and video surveillance footage. A lawyer will use this evidence to prove the elements of fault to give loved ones and the deceased’s estate the best chance of recovering the damages they deserve.
Call Our Wrongful Death Lawyers in Pennsylvania Today
A criminal conviction can provide peace of mind that someone will face consequences for taking the life of your loved one. To obtain damages for your losses though, you should speak to our Allentown personal injury lawyers that can give you the best chance of a positive outcome with your claim. At van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin, our seasoned attorneys know how to prove these claims so you secure the fair settlement you deserve. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.