Wrongful Death vs. Manslaughter – Key Differences to Know

Wrongful death can be a harsh reality of life. No one predicts death, especially when it comes in surprising circumstances. Wrongful death can be the result of an accident, a crime, or even natural causes. When someone dies due to the negligence or recklessness of another party, it’s called wrongful death.

In this post we’ll go over some key differences between manslaughter and wrongful death so that you can better understand how personal injury attorneys handle each type of case.

What is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is a civil lawsuit that can be brought by family members or friends of someone who has died due to the actions of another person. The purpose of wrongful death is to seek compensation for damages such as medical expenses, lost wages and funeral costs.

Manslaughter is a criminal offense that involves killing someone without intent. It’s classified as either voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter, depending on whether there was intent involved in causing harm to another person or not.

Wrongful Death Elements

Wrongful death is a civil claim, not a criminal charge. It’s an action brought by the estate of the deceased against those responsible for his or her death. In other words, it’s between two private parties: the plaintiff (the person bringing suit) and the defendant (the person being sued).

Unlike manslaughter and murder charges, there are no criminal penalties associated with wrongful death. It’s strictly about monetary damages awarded by a judge or jury to compensate for financial losses caused by another person’s actions.

In some states, it’s possible for multiple parties to be held responsible for wrongful death. In these situations, it’s important to know how each party’s liability is determined.

What is a Manslaughter?

In the United States, manslaughter is defined as a negligent killing that isn’t premeditated. This can be either voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter involves an intentional act but not one done in malice or with intent to kill; for example, it might be an accidental shooting during a fight over property or money. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when someone kills someone else through recklessness or negligence (such as driving under the influence).

In contrast to murder charges, manslaughter charges are often less severe because they don’t require proof of intent–only that your actions caused another person’s death.

Many Degrees of Manslaughter

One of the first things to understand about manslaughter is that it’s a crime. Manslaughter can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death.

Manslaughter is also considered a homicide, which means it involves causing another person’s death in some way. Even if you didn’t mean for someone else to die as a result of your actions or negligence, if they do die and their death was caused by something related to those actions (or lack thereof), then they may have grounds for filing suit against those responsible under wrongful death laws.

There are different degrees of manslaughter based on how much responsibility lies with each party involved in causing an accident or injury leading up until death takes place:

  1. 1st Degree Murder — Intending or knowing that one’s actions will result in another person’s death; also known as premeditated murder.
  2. 2nd Degree Murder — Intending or knowing that one’s actions will result in serious bodily harm but not necessarily death; also known as second-degree murder.
  3. 3rd Degree Murder — Intentions unknown, but results were foreseeable at the time action was taken.

Wrongful Death is a Civil Case, While Manslaughter is a Criminal Case.

Wrongful death involves the death of someone due to the negligence of another party or parties (e.g., an accident). In this type of lawsuit, you’re suing for damages such as medical bills, funeral expenses and loss of companionship.

On the other hand, manslaughter refers to an unlawful killing without intent or premeditation that results from recklessness or criminal negligence (such as driving under the influence). The penalties for manslaughter vary depending on whether it’s first-degree murder vs second-degree murder vs involuntary manslaughter; however, all three-carry jail time if convicted.


With all of the information you’ve learned about wrongful death and manslaughter, it’s time to get started on your case!

The Bourassa Law Group is here to manage your Nevada cases. Don’t wait and seek legal help today! Call us at (800)870-8910 and get a free legal consultation to discuss your case.

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