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Wrongful Death vs. Homicide Charges

Is there a Difference?

From a legal standpoint, wrongful death and homicide charges are similar accusations. In Montana—and in most other jurisdictions throughout the country —a party may face homicide or murder charges if he/she is responsible for causing the death of another.

When an individual dies due to the actions or conduct of another person, the at-fault party may be charged with a crime related to the death. But are the legal charges considered wrongful death or homicide?

The answer depends solely on the intent of the at-fault individual. Homicide charges, also called murder charges, require an intentional killing of another, whereas charges associated with an incidental killing are usually considered a wrongful death. Although it may seem that homicides are more serious offenses, some cases of wrongful deaths can be just as grave.

Unintended deaths almost always occur as a result of another’s negligent behavior, and are always preventable. For instance, a traffic fatality caused by an inattentive driver could bring the charges for wrongful death cases against the careless driver; of course, the at-fault party didn’t mean to harm anybody, but their negligence caused the death of another. Here are a few other common domains of wrongful death Cases:

  • Surgical Errors

  • Truck or Motorcycle Accidents

  • Defective Products

  • Medical Misdiagnoses

  • Asbestos-Infested Living Areas

  • Pharmaceutical Errors

  • Workplace Injuries

  • Aviation Accidents

In the case of a wrongful death, the surviving relatives of the deceased may have recourse against the individual or individuals who caused the unintended loss. While homicide charges are handled by the criminal court system, wrongful death claims are civil suits that private parties can file for the recovery of damages related to their loved one’s passing.

These types of cases are unintentional. However, they are always preventable and always caused by another’s careless conduct. If you lost a loved one through the actions—or inactions—of another, consult with your Montana-based personal injury attorneys to discuss your legal options.