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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

Understanding the Difference Between Wrongful Death and Manslaughter

Losing a loved one is devastating, especially if the death resulted from a preventable action. Moving forward is also challenging.


Fortunately, Indiana surviving family members can seek compensation through a wrongful death claim. The deceased person's spouse, dependent child, or estate can be awarded damages for their passing if it was caused by a negligent or wrongful act.


However, the circumstances surrounding the case may affect the type of claim that the deceased person's survivors can file. Sometimes, the death of a loved one can end in a manslaughter charge.


Affected parties should understand the difference between a wrongful death and a manslaughter charge to give their families the opportunity to pursue compensation and secure a stable future.


What Is Wrongful Death in Indiana?

What Is Wrongful Death in Indiana?


In Indiana, a wrongful death is the death of a person that results from a wrongful or negligent act or omission of another person or entity. A negligent-based incident, such as a car crash, medical malpractice, and an intentional act may fall into this category. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can answer questions like, "Does Indiana limit damages for wrongful death?"


A victim's family, survivors, or estate could seek compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased person who would have had the legal right to file a personal injury claim if they had survived.


As opposed to a crime, a wrongful death is a civil action and must be handled accordingly. Therefore, instead of penalizing at-fault parties with jail time, courts often award monetary compensation to victims.

This compensation may include economic and non-economic damages, depending on the losses incurred by the victims and their families.


What Is Manslaughter in Indiana?


According to Indiana law's definition of manslaughter, it's when a person intentionally and inexcusably murders another without malice, deliberation, and premeditation.


Types of Manslaughter


Manslaughter can be voluntary or involuntary. Indiana law says it's voluntary when an individual kills another by acting out of anger or passion without having enough time to calm down.


People often use the terms "heat of the moment manslaughter" or "cold blooded murder" to explain how voluntary manslaughter differs from a criminal homicide or murder.


The following are some examples that may fall into this category:

  • Self-defense: It's when a person overreacts while defending themselves and ends up killing the attacker.

  • Cheating spouse: It's when people experience extreme emotional excitement, such as when they discover their spouses' infidelity and immediately react, killing another person out of anger.

Moreover, there's involuntary manslaughter. Also known as criminally negligent manslaughter, this act describes deaths that occur due to accidents.


In these cases, the legal system does not place the same level of responsibility on the at-fault actor if they did not intend to kill another person but acted inappropriately and caused the death.


The following situations can be considered involuntary manslaughter:

  • When a person dies as a result of someone else's criminal negligence

  • When someone kills another person during the commission of another crime

  • When a person is killed due to poor driving


Differences Between Wrongful Death and Manslaughter


There are three main differences between wrongful death and manslaughter: intent, standard of proof, and expected outcome.


Based on Indiana law's definition, a wrongful death occurs when a person is killed by another party's negligence or intentional actions. However, the term "manslaughter" describes situations in which a person kills another without premeditation or intent.


In addition, when the deceased person's survivors or estate file a wrongful death claim and the case is successful, the court often awards financial compensation. Meanwhile, manslaughter is punished with criminal charges.


As another difference, civil and criminal cases require different standards of proof to achieve a successful or favorable outcome.


In criminal cases, including manslaughter, the accused's guilt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, plaintiffs must provide sufficient and convincing evidence that the defendant is guilty and no reasonable person would question their guilt. It's significantly harder to prove in most cases.

However, civil cases rely on the preponderance of the evidence, which means the court or jury considers that the defendant is over 50% liable for a person's wrongful death.


Who Files Manslaughter or Wrongful Death Claims


Since manslaughters are handled as criminal cases, they are filed by the state on behalf of affected people. Furthermore, their goal is to punish the guilty individual or entity, which is often achieved through community service, fines, prison terms, or other penalties.


Contrastingly, a wrongful death claim is often filed by the deceased person's survivors, loved ones, or legal representatives.


In a wrongful death case, the main goal is not to punish the at-fault party but to hold them accountable for their actions and compensate the victim's relatives for losses and damages. can also advise the Indiana wrongful death statute of limitations.


Can Affected Parties File a Wrongful Death Claim After a Trial for a Manslaughter?


Although many defendants act out of passion or without premeditation, Indiana prohibits the killing of another human being by sudden heat or emotional excitement. They can be considered as mitigating factors to reduce the punishment, but it does not mean the accused parties are not guilty.


Manslaughter is penalized with up to $10,000 in fines, whether it is voluntary (considered a Level 2 felony) or involuntary manslaughter, and from one to 30 years in jail.


However, after the criminal trial, the victim's family may be able to recover compensation through a wrongful death case.


Final Thoughts: What Is the Main Difference Between Wrongful Death and Manslaughter?

Final Thoughts: What Is the Main Difference Between Wrongful Death and Manslaughter?


After a fatal accident, determining who is at fault or choosing the best option to take legal action is complicated.


Sometimes, the passing of a person can be handled as manslaughter or wrongful death. Therefore, affected parties should understand both definitions and their main differences, which are:

  • Both wrongful death and manslaughter involve a person's death but differ in intent

  • A manslaughter case should be handled as a criminal case

  • A wrongful death suit should be filed as a civil case

  • Manslaughter cases often end in criminal charges and punishments for defendants

  • Most wrongful death claims seek compensation for victims, allowing them to recover medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, and other damages


Is It Necessary To Seek Help From A Lawyer for Manslaughter or Wrongful Death Cases?


The surviving family members of a deceased person are entitled to financial compensation. Also, they can hold at-fault parties for their actions.


However, cases involving wrongful death or unlawful killing are tricky. Ideally, plaintiffs should seek help from experienced wrongful death attorneys who can provide legal assistance and handle related tasks.


With the help of an attorney, victims' surviving families can seek the compensation they deserve and more.


Anyone who needs legal guidance can find a reputable and trustworthy team of attorneys at Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys. Call us today and get a free consultation!

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