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What’s the Difference Between Wrongful Death and Manslaughter?

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Posted on January 10, 2024

Both “wrongful death” and “manslaughter” involve a person dying due to someone else’s actions, so it’s easy to get these terms confused. Here’s what you need to know about the differences between them.

What Is Wrongful Death?

wrongful death occurs when someone dies due to another person’s careless or intentional actions. If someone dies in this way, their personal representative – the executor of their estate – can file a wrongful death lawsuit to get compensation for their loss. This kind of lawsuit can stem from various situations, like fatal car accidents, medical malpractice where a doctor’s mistake leads to death, or even cases of intentional harm.

The key point in wrongful death cases is that the death wouldn’t have happened if the responsible party had acted differently. The family of the deceased, by way of the personal representative, can seek money for their suffering, lost income from the deceased, and funeral costs. These lawsuits are a way for the family to get financial support and to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions.

What Is Manslaughter?

Manslaughter is a legal term that applies when someone causes another person’s death without the intention to kill. It happens in situations where the person’s actions were reckless, negligent, or even deliberate, but it does not involve premeditated murder. Manslaughter charges are serious, and they signify that the law holds people accountable for the deadly consequences of their actions, even if they didn’t mean to kill anyone.

There are two main types of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter occurs when a person kills someone else in the “heat of passion,” like during a sudden argument or fight. In these cases, the person didn’t plan to kill, but their actions in the moment still led to someone’s death. Involuntary manslaughter happens when someone dies because of another person’s careless actions, like a fatal car crash caused by running a red light.

Civil vs. Criminal Law

The difference between wrongful death and manslaughter is fundamentally a difference between civil law and criminal law – that is, the wrong one person commits against another, and the wrong a person commits against society at large. A wrongful death case is a type of civil case, while a manslaughter case is a criminal one.

In a wrongful death case, the deceased’s personal representative sues for compensation on behalf of the family of the deceased. They claim that someone’s actions, whether careless or intentional, led to the deceased’s death. Their goal is to get financial support for the loss the family has suffered. To do so, they must demonstrate that the other party’s actions directly caused the deceased to die.

A manslaughter case, on the other hand, involves the government charging someone with a crime. It’s about holding the person legally responsible for causing another person’s death, often due to recklessness or negligence. In these cases, the focus is on punishing the person responsible, not on providing compensation to the victim’s family. If found guilty, the person charged with manslaughter might face jail time, fines, or other legal penalties.

How Our Attorneys Can Help

Whether you’re facing manslaughter charges or pursuing a wrongful death case, the compassionate attorneys at Holley, Rosen & Beard, LLC, can help. Contact us now to tell us your story and get the answers you need in an initial consultation.