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Wrongful Death by Police Officer

Posted on October 26, 2020 in Wrongful Death

Wrongful death happens for many reasons in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California. Some of the most common causes are car accidents and criminal activity. Some wrongful death cases, however, involve the use of police officer deadly force. Many of these deaths are unlawful and stem from police misconduct and brutality. If you lost a loved one in an altercation with a police officer, contact a local Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer to find out if you have grounds for a claim. Someone may owe your family compensation.

What Is Police Brutality?

Police officers have certain rights and responsibilities as law enforcement officials. One of these rights is to use deadly force in certain situations. A police officer can use an amount of force that is reasonably likely to cause death or serious bodily harm, such as firing a gun or using a chokehold, if the circumstances justify doing so. During a wrongful death case involving a police officer, the question will be whether the officer had justification to use deadly force.

Police misconduct refers to any action or omission by a police officer that is inappropriate and illegal based on the circumstances. If a police officer violates an individual’s civil rights while performing job-related tasks, that officer is guilty of misconduct. Police brutality describes human rights violations that are violent in nature. Use of excessive force is an example of police brutality. Use of unnecessary deadly force, resulting in the death of a suspect or individual, is also an example.

Do You Have Grounds for a Wrongful Death Claim?

Your loved one’s death might qualify you to file a wrongful death claim in California if you or your lawyer can prove that the police officer who used deadly force was not reasonably justified in doing so. During a civil claim, it is your burden to prove the police officer’s breach of duty caused your loved one’s death, based on a preponderance of the evidence. Evidence of police brutality can take many forms.

  • Police reports
  • Eyewitness interviews
  • Body camera footage
  • Police car footage
  • Footage and photographs from witnesses’ cellphones
  • Nearby video surveillance footage
  • Medical and coroner’s reports
  • Testimony from subject matter experts
  • Prior complaints against the police officer
  • Reprimands or suspensions on the officer’s record

The burden of proof during a wrongful death case in California is enough evidence to convince a judge or jury that the defendant’s fault is more likely to be true than untrue. Working with a wrongful death lawyer could help you prove a police officer’s fault for your loved one’s fatal injuries. Act quickly to hire an attorney after losing someone in your family to police brutality. You have a maximum of two years from the date of death to file a lawsuit in California.

Who Is Liable for Wrongful Death by Police?

Police misconduct occurs regularly in Los Angeles County. When an officer’s wrongful acts or a violation of civil rights turns deadly, surviving family members may have legal recourse. A wrongful death claim could reimburse a surviving spouse, child or parent for losses such as medical bills, funeral expenses, and pain and suffering. Filing a lawsuit against the liable party could also hold the police officer accountable for his or her actions.

Most wrongful death cases involving police brutality come down to the liability of the police department, not the individual officer. The doctrine of vicarious liability holds employers responsible for their employees. If an on-duty officer of the LAPD killed your loved one, for example, the LAPD would most likely be the defendant in your case. Holding the police department responsible could result in greater compensation for your family. It could also lead to policy changes on an institutional level to prevent similar wrongful deaths in the future. Discuss your case with an attorney in Los Angeles for more information.