What is the difference between a wrongful death lawsuit and criminal murder charges in Iowa?

Iowa City, IA – A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action against a person who caused the death of another through negligence, a failure to act, or other mistakes. In practice, this functions much like a civil negligence case, except a family member will bring the case as the plaintiff rather than the victim. Criminal cases are much different because they are meant to punish the defendant, and compensation is generally not available for the victim. The government also has prosecutors who control whether criminal charges are brought or not in any situation. 

Rules for wrongful death cases

Only certain people are allowed to bring a civil case on a deceased relative’s behalf. This person essentially stands in the victim’s place and collects damages for things like funeral and burial expenses, future lost income, and the value of other services the person could have provided if they were still alive. 

There is also a short statute of limitations for a wrongful death case. Because the family does not have much time to bring this action, legal help is recommended as soon as possible after the accident. 

Criminal lawsuits

Criminal cases are brought against individuals by the state, rather than the victim. The victim may be used as a witness and cooperate with the state during their investigation and the trial, but all of the important decisions are made by the government. The case may even be dismissed if the government attorneys do not think there is enough relevant evidence to secure a conviction. 

The crime of murder requires a specific intent element. This means that murder is defined as an intentional killing. A wrongful death lawsuit does not require intent or that the defendant acted purposefully when they caused the victim to die. 

Both kinds of cases and their outcomes

It may be possible that a person is sued for a wrongful death and charged criminally. There are also situations where only one type of case may be brought against the person responsible. However, in most cases if the state is able to bring murder charges, the victim’s family can likely file a civil lawsuit. It is possible that these kinds of cases can have different outcomes, even if the same evidence is used, especially considering the burden of proof in criminal court is much higher to obtain a conviction and the elements of each action are different.

Getting assistance with a civil lawsuit in Iowa

Individuals who have recently been involved in any kind of accident and suffered from injuries can get help from a licensed attorney in Iowa. Eells and Tronvold Law Offices is a trusted firm that handles personal injury lawsuits for local clients. 

Firm contact info:

Eells and Tronvold Law Offices 

1921 51st Street NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402-2400  



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