Close Menu

What is the Difference between Murder and Wrongful Death?

A Young Girl CryingAs an experienced Riverside, California, wrongful death lawyer, clients and friends often ask me a seemingly difficult question: what is the difference between murder and wrongful death?

First, I should say that both murder and the loss of a loved one due to the negligence of another is very hard on survivors and family. Those left behind have a hole in their heart, knowing that a loved one was taken from them wrongfully.

The simplest way to draw a distinction between the two is to describe the legal classification of each.


Murder is determined a criminal charge. Criminal cases are brought on behalf of the authorities, not by the family of the victim. The burden of proof in such (criminal) cases requires “proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” with a presumption of innocence that is carried by the defendant. A criminal conviction results in fines, jail time, or other criminal penalties.

Wrongful Death

At Heiting & Irwin, our lawyers handle wrongful death cases on a regular basis. Wrongful death claims are brought in civil lawsuits. In civil cases, the standard of proof is different than that of criminal cases. The standard is “a preponderance of the evidence.” Some say this means that the fact was proved to be “more likely than not”. For example, that the death was more likely than not caused by the negligent or careless action of the defendant. A civil wrongful death suit verdict awards an amount of money felt by the jury to be representative of the damaged suffered by those left behind.

If you have questions about a wrongful death claim, or a murder charge in Riverside, Corona, Norco, the Inland Empire, or California contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer here at Heiting & Irwin. These cases need immediate attention, even though the heirs are grieving the loss of a loved one.

Photo Credit: An die ferneGeliebte via Compfightcc

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn