Losing someone unexpectedly is a tragic, life-altering experience. When there is another person responsible for that accident, it is a natural instinct to want justice on behalf of your deceased loved one.
Regardless of whether or not the state of Colorado brings criminal charges against the individual who caused the death of your loved one, you may have the option of filing a civil lawsuit under Colorado wrongful death statutes. In order for a death to qualify as a wrongful death, the loss of life must be the result of either a wrongful or criminal action on the part of a person, business or negligence.
If you intend to take someone to court for their role in the death of your loved one, you will need to have adequate evidence to convince the courts to rule in your favor. Understanding the standard of evidence applied in civil cases can help you determine if you have adequate documentation to support your claims of wrongful death.
What standards apply for evidence in civil court?
In a criminal case, carefully trained law enforcement officers will have played a part in gathering, testing and documenting the evidence used by the prosecutor. The same is not typically true of a civil case. If there are criminal charges related to the civil case, some of that evidence gathered by law enforcement officers may help build your case. However, if there isn’t a criminal case or the charges were not successful, you may worry about whether there will be enough evidence.
There is a substantial gap between the amount of evidence required for a criminal conviction versus a successful civil lawsuit. In a criminal case, prosecutors must present evidence that convinces the judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed a crime. The same standard does not apply to civil cases.
For a civil case to be successful, there must only be a preponderance of evidence that supports the claim of the plaintiff. Both the plaintiff and the defendant may bring evidence, and the courts will weigh the validity and implications of that evidence before determining whether or not the preponderance of evidence supports the idea that the defendant was criminally or negligently responsible for the death of your loved one.
Wrongful death cases can give you justice when the criminal courts fail
Sometimes, there simply isn’t enough evidence to conclusively prove that someone committed a crime. Other times, an effective attorney is able to undermine the evidence just enough in a criminal case to leave the jury wondering about alternative versions of the story.
When a doubt is all that is necessary to avoid conviction, it is straightforward for an attorney to attack the evidence and poke holes in the story given by the prosecution. However, when the only requirement is that the evidence more clearly supports the allegations of the plaintiff than the statements of the defendant, it may be possible to secure a civil judgment against a person who successfully avoided prosecution or conviction in criminal court.
If your family can’t receive the justice of a criminal conviction after a tragic loss, at least it can have the justice of a civil conviction related to the death of your loved one.