Police killings of innocent people across the United States has been a major public and political issue over the last several years. These incidents have given rise to national protests, like Black Lives Matter, and other protests by families and the communities of victims.
Despite this public outcry and the call for police reform, these tragic and senseless deaths continue to happen. While the use of deadly force by police is justifiable in many circumstances, all too often it is being used in circumstances that simply do not warrant that level of force.
- When Can You Sue for a Police Killing?
- What is Qualified Immunity?
- Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuits for a Police Killing?
- How Much are Police Wrongful Death Settlements?
- Notable Police Killing Lawsuit Settlements
Many of these tragic deaths have given rise to police killing lawsuits. These are wrongful death lawsuits brought by family members of the victim seeking justice for their loved one. It is important to contact an experienced police killing lawsuit lawyer to pursue your case.
United States Police Killing Statistics
The most common types of police killing lawsuits are from unlawful restraints that cause positional asphyxia and from unjustified police shootings of innocent victims.
The number of people killed by police in the United States has averaged over 1,000 per year from 2013 through 2019. Police beatings, stun guns, and motor vehicle incidents account for a smaller portion of deaths. The largest number of deaths are from police shootings.
In 2019, there were 1,054 fatal police shootings recorded. In that year, 11 people were killed due to being beaten or restrained by police. In 2020, 1,006 people were shot to death by police in the United States. As of February 24, 2021, the police shot 132 people to death in 2021, with 60 people being killed by the police in February 2021.
While the total number of shooting deaths is significant, a key statistic is the rate of fatal shootings by the ethnicity of the victims. Among Black Americans, the rate of fatal police shootings between 2015 and February 2021 stood at 35 per million of the population, while for White Americans, the rate stood at 14 fatal police shootings per million of the population.
When Can You Sue for a Police Killing?
You can sue for unlawful police killing when law enforcement causes death through the use of unnecessary and unreasonable force. These cases are generally referred to as police misconduct lawsuits and are based on a violation of a person’s constitutional rights and civil rights.
Police killing lawsuits typically allege violations of the 14th Amendment and the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. A constitutional violations of a person’s rights is a basis for suing a police officer and police department. Quite often, there are additional allegations for violations of state constitutional rights and even violations of common law.
A lawsuit should include as many viable allegations that apply, because a judge may dismiss certain claims but allow others to proceed against the government. Our experienced police misconduct attorneys will prepare the lawsuit Complaint to include all possible causes of action to assert against the police officers, police department, and policing agency.
What is Qualified Immunity?
“Qualified immunity” is a hot topic in the news and on the legislative front. It is special protection for government workers, including police officers, to make them immune from liability in a lawsuit. It is often a basis for a judge to dismiss a case even when it involves an unjustifiable killing of an innocent person.
Under qualified immunity, law enforcement officials can only be held accountable for violating a person’s constitutional rights if a court has “clearly established” those precise actions were unconstitutional. If no such decision exists the police official is immune, even if that person violated the law or Constitution. Hopefully, this law will be changed soon and qualified immunity will end soon.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuits for a Police Killing?
Most states only allow an heir of the victim to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This includes a grandparent, parent, spouse, sibling, or child of the victim. In some cases, an aunt or uncle may be permitted to file the claim. The laws vary on a state-by-state basis so it is important to contact a police misconduct lawyer to determine if you are eligible to file a lawsuit.
How Much are Police Wrongful Death Settlements?
There is no set typical police wrongful death settlement amount. Every case is different and the settlement amount is based upon the degree of liability, the manner of death, and even the city or state where the event occurred. The strength of the case is the most important factor.
Settlements often include compensation for the pain and suffering of the victim prior to death, as well as significant money compensation for the loss of companionship of the decedent by the surviving family members. In addition, settlements can include the loss of financial support and other economic damages resulting from the death of the victim.
Notable Police Killing Lawsuit Settlements
There have been many highly publicized police killing settlements in the last ten years in the United States. The most notable settlements include:
- $27 million settlement in the George Floyd vs. City of Minneapolis case for death caused by positional asphyxia. It is the largest settlement ever of its kind.
- $12 million settlement for Breonna Taylor’s family. She was shot to death by police officers who fired into the wrong home
- $6.4 million settlement for the family of Freddie Gray who died while in custody of several City of Baltimore police officers.
- $6 million paid to settle the Eric Garner case by the City of New York. He died due to an unlawful police chokehold on a city street.
Contact a Police Killing Lawsuit Lawyer
If someone you care about was unlawfully killed due to police abuse and misconduct, contact our experienced law firm today. Our award-winning attorneys offer a free case consultation.
We will represent you under a contingent fee agreement. This means there are no lawyer fees or costs unless you win a settlement. And, we only get paid our attorney fee at the end of the case.
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