Murder is a horrific act. One person ends the life of another, and the victim’s family is left to grieve the loss of their loved one.
Criminal court exists to punish people who have broken society’s laws. Murder is one of the most egregious crimes, and it is charged and sentenced as such. There is emotional satisfaction when families see the killer sent to prison, but what happens after the trial? Justice has been served, but there may be pragmatic, real-world problems left unresolved. Perhaps the deceased was the breadwinner in the home, and now the family must decide how to rebuild. When you need financial help from the loss of your family member, you can sue a convicted killer for wrongful death.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Civil court resolves financial matters between individuals. Most often, these trials are personal injury cases, where one person’s negligence caused harm to another. The person who was harmed can file a lawsuit to seek financial compensation, called “damages.”
Wrongful death lawsuits are a kind of personal injury suit. When someone’s actions caused a death, representatives of the deceased can sue on the deceased’s behalf. In the eyes of the law, murder is a crime committed with “intent.” In a civil court, murder is a lawsuit based on a “tort.”
When someone intentionally harms another person, that act is illegal and should be handled in a criminal court. If convicted, the guilty party serves a criminal sentence: fines, community service, probation, jail, etc. A tort, by contrast, is penalized with financial damages. The defendant, when they lose, must pay a sum of money to the plaintiff.
For a tort to be successful, Texas demands that you show a direct financial loss. In a wrongful death case involving murder, you must prove to the court that loss of your loved one directly impacted you economically. There are a number of ways this is possible.
Perhaps the deceased spent some time in the hospital before they passed, and the medical cost was steep. This is one way you can show financial impact. Another possibility is showing how the death changed the household income. You can also demonstrate how your relative’s passing affected future earnings. Perhaps they were on the verge of a new promotion at work; or maybe they had just finished their degree and had some promising job interviews. Now that they are gone, those financial opportunities have gone with them.
Winning a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Winning a wrongful death lawsuit is very different from a criminal murder conviction. In criminal trial, the prosecution has a responsibility to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant is guilty. The jury must be certain that the defendant committed the crime in question.
In a wrongful death tort-related lawsuit, there need only be a “preponderance of evidence” for the plaintiff to win. Put simply, the court needs only 51% certainty that the defendant committed a “wrongful act.” This is especially easy to prove if the defendant has already been criminally convicted of murder.
The “Litigation Proof” Defendant
If you want to sue someone who was convicted of murder, you must consider their present situation. Unless they were already financially secure going into prison, they may have nothing to offer in a civil suit. Inmates can find it hard to secure a job in lockup, and they are paid next to nothing when they do. With no income and no financial cushion waiting for them, they may be “litigation proof.” Even if you sue them and win, they may not have the means to pay the damages.
Prisoners can also be hard to locate. They are often moved to different facilities. Even when they are found, getting the prison to clear the inmate for a court appearance can be covered in legal red tape.
If you wish to sue a convicted killer for wrongful death, talk to a lawyer. They can investigate the situation and see if the defendant will be able to pay. They can also look at where the convict is held and strategize with you. This will help you decide if pursuing the case is a viable option.
We are here to assist in a wrongful death lawsuit. Consultations are free, and there is no risk in speaking to us. You can contact us online or call us at (817) 591-4222.