Q: What is the difference between a civil wrongful death suit and a criminal claim for the death of a loved one?
A: There are many differences, the main one being a civil case is in civil court and a criminal case is in criminal court. In addition, in a criminal case, the government prosecutes the defendant and in a civil suit, you would hire your own civil attorney to represent you. Finally, in criminal court there can be criminal charges imposed on the defendant, whereas in civil court the deceased family will be awarded a monetary judgment, and likely a much higher award that any restitution you may get in criminal court. I would recommend consulting with an attorney individually if you are considering filing a wrongful death case in civil court, as such cases are very fact specific. Many of us offer free consultations, so it will not cost you anything to obtain a professional's opinion tailored to the specific facts of your situation.
A: Contact members of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Assn in the County where it happened--they give free consults.
A: Remember the O J Simpson trials. In the criminal case, the State seeks to punish responsible person with a prison sentence and the standard of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt."
In a civil action, family members seek to make the responsible person pay a monetary judgment and the standard of proof is "within a reasonable degree of certainty," a MUCH lower standard.
That is why O J Simpson was acquitted in the criminal trial but found responsible in the civil trial.
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