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Suing Someone for Committing Murder

There’s a running joke that, in our legal system, you could sue anyone at any time for any reason. That is an extreme position, but there is a kernel of truth to it. The question is not whether you can file the lawsuit, the question is whether the court will approve it, allowing it to go to trial.

It is both possible and reasonable to sue someone who criminally victimized you. Whether or not they face criminal justice, you can file a lawsuit, and that suit can go forward. This includes suing someone for murder.

If your loved one was killed, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased.

Using Wrongful Death to Compensate for a Murder

There are different standards for criminal and civil justice. To find someone guilty of a crime the court must be 100% convinced of that person’s guilt. To win a civil suit, the court need be only 51% convinced of the plaintiff’s story. This is the “preponderance of evidence” standard.

Criminal justice can be satisfying, assuming justice is served. A guilty party could get off on a technicality, or their defense could sow just enough doubt to render a not guilty verdict.

Even if the offender is convicted, that may not be enough to help the family of the murder victim. The sudden loss of a family member is emotionally traumatic, but it also creates a practical burden. The family may have been financially dependent on the victim, and anyone can tell you that funeral expenses aren’t cheap.

A wrongful death lawsuit can straighten out these financial woes.

Compensation for Surviving Family Members

In California, close family members can file wrongful death lawsuits. This includes the parent, children, and siblings of the deceased. It may be possible for distant relatives to sue as well, depending on the chain of intestate succession. The executor of the estate can also file a wrongful death suit, so if the deceased only had close friends but no family, those friends can work with the executor on the suit.

Survivors can be directly compensated for expenses related to the murder. This includes any lost wages the deceased contributed to the home.

Loved ones can also be awarded non-economic damages. In a wrongful death suit, this includes pain and suffering damages. Because the injured party was killed, survivors are also eligible for compensation directly related to the death. For instance, they could receive damages for their loss of companionship, affection, guidance, contribution to the family, and so on.

Compensation for the Deceased

Wrongful death is a type of personal injury lawsuit. In any personal injury case, the plaintiff is asking for compensation directly related to their expenses. Since a wrongful death case involves a plaintiff who has been killed, loved ones are suing on this person’s behalf.

“Survivor actions” can compensate the deceased. Essentially, it pays back expenses related to the person’s death. This included medical bills, property damage, and so on.

This survivor action compensation goes back into the estate. Presumably, the estate paid for these expenses, so it is reimbursed as a living entity.

Punitive Damages

When a loved one has been killed, you may also be eligible for punitive damages. These are extra expenses heaped upon a defendant simply to punish them. A civil court cannot sentence someone with criminal penalties, so it must use finances as a penalty.

Challenges in Suing for a Murder

If someone has already been convicted, it may be easy to win your case. You can simply use this conviction as part of your evidence.

However, executing the lawsuit may be difficult. Convicts typically have no money to give in a lawsuit, making them “litigation proof.” Simply getting them to appear in court can also be an ordeal. You must get clearance from their prison, which takes time. If they are shipped to a new facility, you may need to start the clearance process all over.

Before embarking on such a lawsuit, make sure you spend time working closely with your attorney. They can help you decide whether pursuing this case is worth the effort, and they may have other options if it isn’t.

If you believe you have a case for a wrongful death suit, contact our office for a free consultation. Our number is (951) 779-1610, and you can reach us online.