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Can a person who has been found not guilty in a murder trial still be sued for wrongful death?

Yes. Murder is classified as a criminal act that the government will prosecute on behalf of the people. The burden of proof for guilt in a murder trial is the much higher standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Whether or not that standard is met in a criminal trial, the defendant charged with murder can still be sued in a wrongful death action in civil court, in which the burden of proof for liability is the lower standard of “a preponderance of the evidence.”

If the death of a human being is not deemed a criminal act, a successful wrongful death action will have to prove that that person’s death was the result of the negligence or intent to cause harm by another person, and that surviving family members have suffered monetary damages as a result of the death. 

The decedent’s estate must appoint a personal representative, who can then file a wrongful death lawsuit.

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