What is Wrongful Death?

You may have heard the term “wrongful death” from a variety of places, from the news to crime shows. Over our decades-long career, we’ve handled numerous wrongful death lawsuits. But for the everyday citizen, it may not be clear what a wrongful death lawsuit involves.


Wrongful death is “when somebody is killed because of another person or entity’s negligence or misconduct.” (Source). When this occurs, the victim’s family has the option to file legal action.

Legal Action

When someone dies because of the misconduct or negligence of another, the victim’s family has the option to take legal action against that person. This is different from the perpetrator being charged with a crime in court. A wrongful death lawsuit is handled in civil court and is completely separate from criminal charges.

What’s the difference between a criminal and a civil case?

A criminal case is when someone is brought to trial to receive a sentence from a government entity. The government is seeking to punish this person with jail time because they broke the law. Both the burden of proof and the penalty are higher in a criminal case.

A civil case does not result in any criminal charges and is filed by the family of the victim. In the case of a wrongful death suit, the family is holding the other person liable for the wrongful death of the victim. A civil suit is not aiming to convict the other person of a crime but instead attempting to receive compensation in the form of monetary damages.

Famous Example

The OJ Simpson trial is a well-known example of this. While OJ Simpson was acquitted in criminal court, the families of the two victims filed a civil lawsuit afterward. In the civil case, Simpson was found responsible for both deaths, and the families were awarded a financial settlement. This decision did not result in any criminal charges or jail time for Simpson, since it was not a criminal trial.

Other Differences

Another way wrongful death lawsuits are different from criminal trials is that there is not a need for as much proof. The same evidence from a criminal trial can be used, but there is a lower standard of proof.

A standard of proof is “the level of certainty and the degree of evidence necessary to establish proof in a criminal or civil proceeding.” (Source). In a criminal proceeding, there needs to be enough evidence to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Since a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil case, it’s different.

What type of compensation can you get from a wrongful death lawsuit?

When someone needlessly passes away due to someone else’s negligence, the last thing on your mind might be the money lost due to their passing. Life is priceless, something no one can truly put a number on. But as the family of the victim, you might be in need of significant financial support. The person at fault may be held accountable for this. There are many things you, as the descendants, can receive compensation for.

  • The victim’s salary and earnings. The family may have depended on the person’s income, and with them now gone, so is the money they needed.
  • Medical bills they had to pay due to the accident. The victim may have had to be rushed to the hospital and treated, before sadly passing away. Hospital bills add up quickly, and the family can receive compensation for this.
  • Funerals can be quite expensive, so the cost of burial is also calculated into the settlement.

While financial compensation will never cover the pain of losing a loved one, it can take monetary stress out of the equation, allowing you to mourn without unnecessary stressors on your mind.

Next Steps

If you are in Alaska and interested in filing a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a deceased loved one, please feel free to reach out. We’re one of Alaska’s leading wrongful death firms and are able to get you the compensation you need. Give us a call for a free case evaluation, and we can get the process started.

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