death cases can be filed by anyone who has had their civil or private rights violated by another
individual or entity. A civil trial does not automatically guarantee a person is guilty under the
law beyond a reasonable doubt.
Criminal cases can only be brought against an individual or
entity by a government body. A prosecutor makes the case against the accused and seeks punishment
such as a prison sentence. Prosecutors are obligated to prove beyond guilt beyond a reasonable
doubt, which is the standard burden of proof in criminal trials.
For example, in the prominent
murder trial of O.J.
Simpson, he was not found guilty in the criminal proceedings, but the decedents' families were
able to file a civil
wrongful death lawsuit and were awarded monetary damages. This is because civil cases do not
have to prove guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." In a civil case, the standard burden of
proof is "by a preponderance of the evidence." Basically, this means that 51% or more of
the evidence must support the claims brought by the survivors.