When someone dies, it is a tragedy. But, when that person died prematurely due to something someone did or did not do, that makes it a crime.
In Idaho, when a person is the victim of a crime, especially one as serious as wrongful death, they (or their heirs) are entitled to compensation.
Criminal Wrongful Death
When someone kills someone else, they have broken the law, and the state sets out to punish them. The goal of the state is to prove that the person murdered their victim and to have them put in jail. While Idaho has only executed three people in history, the death penalty is still an option for murder cases.
Criminal wrongful death is the legal action taken to bring justice to the criminal.
Civil Wrongful Death
Civil wrongful death is a bit different. In a civil case, the heirs of the victim are bringing legal action against someone for causing the death of their loved one. They are seeking monetary compensation.
This can be compensation for loss of income, lost property, expenses such as funeral costs and other expenses that the victims family paid as a result of the death of their loved one.
Note: Many clients ask if they can add pain and suffering to their lawsuit. Generally speaking, the court takes the stand that the pain and suffering a person suffered went with them when they passed away.
However, that is not the case every time. Your attorney will help you decide if the pain and suffering you are experiencing can be included in legal actions.
Punitive damages are only applied at the discretion of the court. This is a monetary slap on the hand. When the court determines that the action of the person was so cruel, careless, and negligent that they deserve more punishment than the civil case can bring, they can add in punitive damages.
For example, if someone is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and they cause an accident, they will probably have criminal charges and civil charges.
If that person has a record of DUI and they drove their car into a playground full of children, the court may be so morally offended, that they charge them with punitive damages too. Sometimes the court feels that the victims are entitled to more than the basic ruling can give.
When you are dealing with a wrongful death case, it is a mistake to try to do it alone. One reason is obvious; an experienced attorney from a wrongful death law firm in Coeur d’Alene can get you more justice than you can get on your own.
Secondly, the lines separating criminal, civil, and punitive damages are not always clear. This is when the skill of an attorney is priceless.
Your attorney has to ensure that the judge sees it from your point of view. In essence, your attorney’s job is to give the judge the hammer he or she needs to nail the case down.
When you have suffered a wrongful death in your family, you are emotionally damaged. You are not equipped to fight this last battle for your loved one alone. You need an attorney.
You will not get to come back later and do it again. You have one shot to make your statement and impact the life of the person who damaged yours beyond repair.