Can you trigger Double Jeopardy rules with a wrongful death suit?

Losing a loved one unexpectedly is a tragic and life-changing experience. The grief that you feel may be immense, especially if the tragedy occurred during a disagreement or a low point in your relationship with the other person.

Your entire family will also need to adjust to life without the services and financial support provided by the person who recently died. Although life insurance can help families trying to adjust to life after a tragic loss, most insurance policies won’t cover someone’s lifetime earning potential.

Wrongful death lawsuits are an option for those dealing with grief and the financial consequences of losing an immediate family member. Can you file a wrongful death lawsuit even if the state prosecutes the responsible party for their involvement in the tragedy?

Prosecution and litigation are different

As you may know, every defendant facing criminal allegations in the United States has certain civil rights. The right to an attorney, the right against self-incrimination and the right to a jury trial if someone desires are all important protections.

Criminal defendants also have protection against Double Jeopardy. The government cannot prosecute them twice for the same offense, which makes some people worry that they can’t file a civil claim if the state successfully prosecutes the drunk driver or criminal who killed someone during a burglary gone wrong.

However, a civil case is not the same as a criminal case. A defendant could face a wrongful death lawsuit as an alternative means of justice if they avoid conviction or as a secondary consequence if the state does successfully prosecute them.

Criminal prosecution could help your case

The criminal case can play a role in your civil claim later. If the state convicts the defendant or if they plead guilty, the records of those proceedings could help you meet the standard of evidence necessary for a civil claim.

In fact, even the evidence used in an unsuccessful prosecution attempt could help you in civil court. The burden of evidence is lower in civil proceedings. You need only show that a preponderance of evidence supports your claim rather than to prove that your claim is true beyond a reasonable doubt.

If someone caused your loved one’s death through criminal behavior or overt negligence, their prosecution will not prevent you from seeking justice in the civil courts. Learning about the rules that govern New Mexico wrongful death claims can help your family hold someone accountable for irresponsible or illegal behavior.

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