In these situations, we usually classify the loss of life into two categories. Homicide is the purposeful ending of someone’s life, better known as murder, and that’s a criminal act. Negligence, however, is an action that wasn’t intended, usually as a result of carelessness. While it still results in loss of life, it is not considered a criminal act, and thus no criminal charges of jail sentences are required.
But then there is negligent homicide, and this is a special case.
Murder & Manslaughter
In typical loss-of-life situations involving criminal charges, the case is typically classified as either murder or manslaughter. Murder, either in the first or the second degree, is about deliberate intent to kill someone. There may be a lot of thought and planning, which is murder in the first degree, or an impulsive, spur of the moment act, which is murder in the second degree.
Manslaughter, however, is when there is no deliberate intent to take a life, but it happens nonetheless. Vehicular manslaughter is the most common example of this. A driver hitting a child that has run out into the road may, depending on the circumstances, be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
How Negligence & Wrongful Death Work
Negligence can sometimes be a component of manslaughter, depending on the circumstances. Negligence is legally defined as some responsibility, duty, or precaution a person is usually expected to follow but chooses not to. That choice to ignore a procedure or precaution, if it results in loss of life, would constitute a case of wrongful death in a lawsuit.
So, for example, someone who is driving drunk and gets into a car accident that results in loss of life could be criminally charged with vehicular manslaughter. The driver could also be sued for wrongful death. In this case, drinking while driving is an easily provable act of negligence.
Negligent homicide is when an act of negligence is so great that it creates an extraordinary amount of harm. The most famous example of this is the 1996 Aeroperu Flight 603 crash. The plane was being cleaned, but a mechanic failed to remove some tape used during the cleaning, and it remained left over one of the static ports on the bottom side of the fuselage.
This careless act resulted in the plane incorrectly giving flight data to the pilots. The aircraft crashed over the ocean, and every person aboard the plane was killed, no survivors. Because that one careless act cost every person in the flight their life, it was deemed a negligent homicide.
In the case of wrongful death, don’t talk to a criminal lawyer, speak to a wrongful death lawyer. The compensation here won’t be in the form of a jail sentence, but financial damages through a lawsuit.