When families lose a loved one due to police excessive force or brutality, the grief can be immense. Police officers are entrusted by the community to serve and protect. When individuals are killed during encounters with police, the results can be devastating. According to the Atlantic, in 2016 alone 1,092 people were killed by police.
According to the Cornell Law School, police are permitted to use deadly force only under limited circumstances. For example, a police officer can use deadly force if he or she deems it is necessary for self-defense. Deadly force may also be permitted if a person or suspect appears to have committed a violent act that can result in the death or deaths of other people (or if the suspect appears to be committing such an act). Deadly force may also be used if officers believe a suspect will escape who can pose a safety risk to the community or to other officers. Police officers are given immense discretion when determining which situations will result in danger to officers or to the general public.
Pursuing a lawsuit against police wrongful death can be very difficult because the courts tend to rule in favor of the judgement police officers use in the line of duty. However, as awareness has increased about the risk that police violence poses to the community at large, more families who believe their loved ones have died in vain are fighting back. The Law Offices of Oscar Syger are police brutality lawyers in Boca Raton, Florida who can help you fight back if you have lost a loved one due to wrongful death.
Sovereign Immunity and Police Department Wrongful Death Claims
Under the principle of sovereign immunity, the government is generally immune from lawsuits. Under Florida law, the government places caps on how much money individuals can claim in a Florida lawsuit. Under the law, the caps are $200,000 per personal injury claim and $300,000 per incident. This means that even if a family’s wrongful death claim is worth more than $200,000, the family may only be able to claim $200,000 for their wrongful death lawsuit. However, in some cases families may be able to petition the state to waive the cap, especially in cases of egregious harm. Florida’s sovereign immunity laws also prohibit individuals from seeking punitive damages from the state. Punitive damages are meant to punish an individual or organization for wrongdoing or harm. If, for example, a police department fails to train its officers on racial bias and racial profiling, this could be seen as an egregious oversight. However, because Florida law prohibits punitive damages, families may not be able to seek these damages to hold a police department accountable. In Florida, in order for a family to receive more than the caps, a bill approving the additional damages must be signed by both houses in Florida and also be signed by the governor. According to the Sun Sentinel, only four such bills passed last year.
If your family has suffered the tragic loss of a loved one due to the wrongdoing of police officers or due to the negligent actions of police, you may have the right to pursue a lawsuit. However, when dealing with Florida’s sovereign immunity laws, it is important to have a lawyer on your side who can fight for your rights. The Law Offices of Oscar Syger are police brutality lawyers in Boca Raton, Florida who can help you pursue a wrongful death claim against officers.
Federal Claims for Police Wrongful Death
One way that families can bypass Florida’s limits on police wrongful death is by pursuing a civil rights lawsuit at the federal level. Individuals are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. Excessive force can be construed by the courts to constitute unreasonable seizure. In order to pursue a claim at the federal level, families generally need to show that police showed disregard for a person’s rights. When making a claim at the federal level, your lawyer will need to prove that officers violated an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights. According to the Richmond Journal of Law and the Public Interest, the shooting must have taken place in an attempt to arrest or detain an individual, and the family may need to show that the police showed indifference to protecting the civil rights of the individual they were trying to detain.
What are some situations that can show that an officer may have used excessive force? If an officer kept shooting, or kept using excessive force after a suspect was detained, then a family may be able to claim that the officer’s force was excessive. Continuing to strangle a suspect after the suspect has already been placed in handcuffs, or once a suspect is already on the ground could be indicative of police excessive force. Families may also be able to look at the police department’s policies and also at video of the officers before or after the incident. Indifference to suspect’s rights could result in families being able to seek damages.
Another case where families may be able to pursue a case is if officers denied a person medical care either after an incident or after a person was in custody. There have been several high-profile cases in the news where police departments failed to get suspects or persons in custody adequate medical care. If you believe that a denial of emergency care resulted in your loved one’s death, you may also have a federal case.
When pursuing a lawsuit at the federal level, families must show that officers or the police department violated an individual’s civil rights. Many factors will play a role in determining whether force was excessive, including facts about the crime officers believe was being committed, whether an individual evaded officers, and whether the individual harmed by police was carrying a weapon or posed a threat. The Law Offices of Oscar Syger are police brutality attorneys in Boca Raton, Florida who can review the details of your case and help you understand what avenues may be available for your family.
Seek Justice for Your Family Today
If you have lost a loved one due to the use of lethal force by police, your family may have the right to pursue a police wrongful death claim. If officers could have reasonably used less excessive force, your family may have the right to pursue a claim. The Law Offices of Oscar Syger are police brutality lawyers in Boca Raton, Florida who can use a variety of legal remedies to help you and your family seek damages. Contact our firm today to learn more.