Difference Between Wrongful Death and Manslaughter in Phoenix, AZ

Losing someone is never easy, especially if it happened due to someone’s negligence or failure to act. You have every legal right to pursue a wrongful death case and be compensated for your loss. At the same time, the case could be considered as manslaughter if it is believed the incident was criminal in nature. Nevertheless, it is entirely possible that the defendant is found guilty of wrongful death but innocent of manslaughter.

The OJ Simpson trial is the most famous wrongful death/manslaughter case in history. The family of Nicole Brown Simpson was awarded compensation by means of a wrongful death claim, but OJ himself was acquitted of a manslaughter charge.

Phillips Law Group is one of Arizona’s largest consumer law groups, well equipped to handle such complex cases. Many of our attorneys handle claims and lawsuits across the country, so if you are scoping the nation for an experienced group of attorneys with a winning track record, do not hesitate to reach out to us today.

Call Phillips Law Group to consult about your case. We are available 24/7. You will never have to worry about paying us anything until you win.

Definition of Wrongful Death

Wrongful death is a civil case you can bring against a party whose negligent actions caused the death of your loved one. These lawsuits are comparable to personal injury cases. You will likely suffer financial losses if you are injured at work due to your boss’s negligence. For example, you could miss time at work, have medical bills to pay, and deal with pain and suffering.

In the case of a death, the deceased would not be able to make a personal injury claim for compensation on his own. The potential claim, therefore, falls under the category of wrongful death, filed on behalf of his family who suffered financial and emotional burdens as a result of their tragic loss.

Each wrongful death case is unique to itself, so we cannot give you a realistic estimate of the damages you could receive unless you come speak to us yourself. Damages are awarded based on various factors. 

The damages you recover may depend on:

  • The deceased’s income
  • Your family’s dependence on that income
  • Expected future income, including promotions, benefits, and raises
  • Emotional harm
  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical bills
  • Funeral costs
  • Punitive damages (if appropriate)

Definition of Manslaughter

While wrongful death is associated with a negligent act, manslaughter is comparable to murder. According to Cornell Law School, there are differences between manslaughter and murder. Manslaughter is less culpable and not as serious. Murder requires forethought, which is not often the case with manslaughter. 

The definition of manslaughter may vary between states, but there are two main types which include:

  • Involuntary manslaughter involves a negligent act that kills someone unintentionally
  • Voluntary manslaughter is the act of killing someone intentionally if provoked or in the heat of passion

Many states no longer differentiate between cases using the terms “voluntary” or “involuntary” manslaughter. Instead, they may determine the degree of manslaughter according to the following classifications:

  • 1st-degree manslaughter means someone intentionally caused a person’s death
  • 2nd-degree manslaughter is when a person acts recklessly, knowing his or her behavior can kill someone
  • 3rd-degree manslaughter is the act of killing someone with no intent to do so; this would be a spur-of-the-moment event that had no forethought

DUI Manslaughter

When an intoxicated person drives a vehicle and kills another person, this is considered to be DUI manslaughter. DUI manslaughter does not need intent to be considered a crime. There are, however, four elements that must be proven to win a conviction.

The four elements needed to prove a DUI manslaughter charge include the following:

  1. The defendant must have been operating a motor vehicle
  2. While the defendant was operating a motor vehicle, he killed another person
  3. The defendant was too impaired by drugs or alcohol to drive that motor vehicle safely
  4. The person was killed because of the defendant operating the motor vehicle

DUI manslaughter is considered a 2nd-degree felony. It can be punishable with a fine of up to $15,000 and up to 15 years in prison.

You might be entitled to compensation if you lost someone due to wrongful death. Call Phillips Law Group today for compassionate legal representation.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death or Manslaughter Suit?

Wrongful death cases are pursued by a loved one or the executor of a will but are not usually primarily intended to punish someone who negligently caused a death. Family members simply want to be compensated for financial losses, especially when the deceased contributed to the household in a variety of ways. There might be bills the family is now responsible for that their family member took care of before.

The compensation the family can receive after winning a wrongful death case varies depending on certain factors. Different states also have laws that can impact what damages are recoverable. For example, most states may allow economic damages. However, not all states will allow non-economic damages, such as emotional suffering.

Manslaughter is a criminal case and is not filed by the family but rather by the state where the death occurred. Manslaughter cases aim to punish someone who recklessly or intentionally caused someone’s death. Penalties issued by two guilty parties may include fines paid to the state, a prison term, and/or community service.

Differences in Burden of Proof

Another difference between wrongful death and manslaughter is the burden of proof needed to make a case. Criminal cases, like manslaughter cases, must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. It can be difficult for a criminal prosecutor, as the evidence of intent might be lacking. Wrongful death cases are easier to win because the standard is much lower, and evidence is more abundant.

This burden of proof makes the OJ Simpson trial so frustrating for many. Simpson lost his wrongful death case and was required to pay millions in damages. At the same time, the prosecution could not prove manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt. That is why he was later acquitted of murder.

How Much Compensation Can You Receive for Wrongful Death?

States may differ on how much you can receive in compensation for wrongful death. For example, Arizona is an at-fault state. This type of governance also covers how wrongful deaths are handled. Arizona law dictates that defendants are only responsible for their share of the liability. To determine the maximum award, the total damages may be multiplied by the defendant’s percentage of fault. 

Meanwhile, New York has handled wrongful death differently. According to the New York Bar website, the types of damages a grieving family can receive are economic losses. Families can not receive compensation for their own grief or loss of consortium. The economic damages awarded are generally limited to the time of injury and when the death officially occurred, the amount including medical care, pain and suffering while the personal injury victim was alive, and funeral expenses. 

In August 2022, though, the New York Senate passed a new wrongful death bill now on its way to the governor’s desk. The bill is called “The Grieving Families Act” and allows for non-financial compensation to be awarded. 

Call Phillips Law Group to Defend Your Family’s Right to Receive Compensation

If you suffered a death in the family due to someone’s negligence, you have every right to pursue damages. Life can be difficult after losing someone you love, especially if that person was the breadwinner of your family. 

If you don’t act quickly to protect your rights, you can lose out on a stable income, a future inheritance, and much more. You need to hire experienced attorneys who will stand up for your family every step of the way.

Phillips Law Group understands that your loss means much more to you than money. We cannot bring back the person you love, but we can help remove some burdens your family will face. Our team of influential Arizona attorneys has helped clients win over $1 billion in compensation. Be sure to call us ASAP before the statute of limitations runs out on your case.

Call Phillips Law Group for a no-fee consultation. We charge no up-front fees and will not receive a dime until you win your case.