Wrongful death is the term for ending the life of another in a manner that is unlawful and unjustified as it pertains to a civil court matter. In a wrongful death action, the aggrieved party is usually one or more family members of the deceased. The defendant who caused the death is most often being sued for monetary damages.
The defendant has fewer rights and protections than in a criminal trial and the the standard of proof is usually the preponderance of the evidence instead of beyond the shadow of a doubt. A defendant in a wrongful death suit may also find himself or herself the defendant in a criminal case of murder, manslaughter or other criminal charge related to the death. The one type of court action does not exclude the other.
Under common law there was no provision to seek damages for a wrongful death. Most States have now enacted laws that provide for civil judgments in addition to criminal penalties. Civil trials for wrongful death only make sense if the family filing the suit can reasonably expect to recover money sufficient to pay for legal expenses, which can be quite high, and a reasonable award.