Criminal charges may be appropriate where a wrong doer intentionally or with callous disregard for others, causes death. The decision whether to charge criminally usually rests with the district attorney in the county where the crime occurred. It is crucial that the family of the deceased, through its lawyer, contact the district attorney to express the family’s wishes concerning criminal prosecution. Unless a plea deal is reached first, a jury will decide whether criminal conduct occurred justifying incarceration. DO NOT ALLOW A PLEA DEAL WITHOUT FAMILY IMPUT TO THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY.
Criminal convictions require evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt”. While winning a civil case only requires a “preponderance of the evidence”. Some wrongdoing justifying civil liability may not rise to the level of criminal conduct.
In other words, wrongful death liability does not require criminal conduct. Oregon’s wrongful death statute is ORS 30.010 to 30.100. TRAP: Oregon law requires suit three years after INJURY, not death. As a general rule, wrongful death clams are asserted by a surviving spouse or the surviving children but Oregon law does not limit recovery to those relatives.
Law enforcement rarely releases its investigative reports until after the conclusion of the criminal case. Almost always, a criminal conviction will help the subsequent civil wrongful death case for money damages against the bad actor.
Because what is said and done at a criminal trial impacts any later civil trial, family members should be represented by a civil lawyer as soon possible in the process. Richard Rizk can be reached at (503) 245-5677 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.