a claim in common law jurisdictions against a person who can be held liable
for a death. The claim is brought in a civil action, usually by close
relatives, as enumerated by statute. Under common law, a dead person cannot
bring a suit, and this created a legal hole in which activities that
resulted in a person's injury would result in civil sanction but activities
that resulted in a person's death would not.
The standard of proof in the United States is typically preponderance of the
evidence as opposed to clear and convincing or beyond a reasonable doubt. In
Australia and the United Kingdom, it is 'on the balance of probabilities'.
For this reason, it is often easier for a family to seek retribution against
someone who kills a family member through tort than a criminal prosecution.
It should be noted, however, that the two actions are not mutually
exclusive; a person may be prosecuted criminally for causing a person's
death (whether in the form of murder, manslaughter, criminally negligent
homicide, or some other theory) and that person can also be sued civilly in
a wrongful death action (as in the O.J. Simpson cases).