No matter how it happens, the death of a loved one is tragic. Coping with the loss, however, may be more difficult if their passing was the direct result of another person’s actions. When someone causes a person’s death, there are laws that can hold them accountable. The laws that apply, however, depend on the circumstances surrounding the death. If you’re planning on taking legal action for the preventable passing of a family member, you’ll need to understand the differences between wrongful death and manslaughter. To understand those differences, let’s start by taking a look at how civil and criminal cases differ.
Understanding the Difference Between Civil and Criminal Cases
To properly address wrongdoings in the American legal system, victims have the opportunity to pursue a civil case or a criminal case. A civil case is merited by a dispute between two groups regarding legal duties and responsibility owed to each other. A criminal case, on the other hand, involves crimes that are generally considered offenses against the state.
A civil case begins when a person or entity claims another person or entity failed to carry out the duty of care owed to them and, instead, caused them harm. Car accidents are among the most common type of civil cases. If, for example, a driver is distracted, rear-ends the car in front of them, and injures the occupants in that car, the injured victims can file a civil car accident claim against the at-fault driver to seek compensation for their losses like medical bills and lost wages if they had to miss work.
With a criminal case, a person accused of a crime is prosecuted by the government on behalf of the people of the United States. A state’s attorney’s office prosecutes state crimes, while federal crimes are handled through the United States Attorney’s Office. Instead of resolving the matter with compensation, criminal cases that result in a conviction lead to a sentence. Sentencing could involve a fine, probation, or imprisonment.
Wrongful Death Actions in Maryland
According to Maryland law, a wrongful death is the result of “an act, neglect, or default including a felonious act which would have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensured.” In other words, if the decedent would have been able to file a personal injury claim if they had survived, the family members are allowed to pursue a wrongful death claim on their behalf.
Wrongful death action may be filed by a spouse, parent, or child. Per the state’s statute of limitations, most wrongful death claims must be filed within three years of the death date. The time limit differs in the event the wrongful death was the result of an occupational disease.
Maryland’s Manslaughter Laws and Penalties
Under the Maryland Code of Criminal Law Section 2-207, manslaughter is referred to as the unintentional killing of another person. This typically happens when unreasonably dangerous actions result in the death of a person, and the perpetrator should have known that the risk of death was possible.
Examples of situations potentially resulting in manslaughter include drinking and driving, discharging a firearm, and using and abusing drugs. The consequences of being charged with manslaughter depend on the situation, but those found guilty can be subject to imprisonment for a maximum of ten years or imprisonment for a maximum of two years and criminal fines up to $500.
Seek Justice With Belsky & Horowitz, LLC
If you believe negligence contributed to the death of your loved one, you may be able to take legal action to seek compensation for the related losses. Monetary awards may be available for funeral and burial expenses, medical bills relating to the fatal accident, lost future wages and benefits, pain and suffering, and more.
While our attorneys understand the last thing you want to be thinking about while you’re mourning a loss is finances, we also recognize that managing debt is challenging after the death of a loved one. That’s why we help families in Baltimore and the surrounding areas with wrongful death claims.
You may be wondering if the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death warrant a wrongful death case. To make the determination, you can schedule a free consultation with our law firm. We’ll review your family’s situation and help you make the best decision for your future. If filing a claim is the path you choose, we’ll be with you every step of the way to ensure full and fair compensation is awarded.