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Is a criminal conviction needed in a wrongful death case?

Many times, a criminal conviction may come before or during a wrongful death case, and the two cases will then go hand-in-hand. For example, if a traffic accident in Illinois takes a life, the driver who caused the accident could get criminal charges, and then the family of the victim could seek to start a wrongful death case in order to get compensation, due to that fact that the criminal case is clear evidence that that person was at fault.

However, it's important to note that the two do not always have to go together. The standard of proof that is used in a wrongful death case is not always going to be the same as the standard of proof that is required for a criminal case. In criminal cases, this standard is set very high, with the justice system leaning toward the side of allowing guilty parties to go free rather than putting innocent people behind bars.

If you have lost someone and you believe it was a wrongful death, do not let the lack of a criminal conviction stop you from pursuing the case. Those reviewing the wrongful death case are not going to take the results of the criminal case and blindly apply them to the civil case. There is a chance that a person could avoid jail time or other legal repercussions and still be ordered to pay you compensation based on your personal loss.

As both cases progress, make sure that you are always aware of exactly what legal options you have and how they can be used.

Source: Find Law, "Wrongful Death Overview" Dec. 05, 2014

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