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What Happens When Wrongful Death Lawsuits Involve The Police?

Recent events that have shattered families and shaken communities have made it impossible to avoid asking the question: What happens when a wrongful death lawsuit is brought against the police or other people who are in authority?

Generally speaking, wrongful death lawsuits involve private citizens acting against other private citizens as the result of an accident. The aggrieved party, who may be the next of kin of the deceased or acting on behalf of their estate, brings suit.

There are several different aspects to any wrongful death lawsuit:

  • • The suit is intended to compensate dependents and others deprived of the deceased’s income.
  • • The suit is often intended to punish the responsible party (punitive damages) for negligence.
  • • On balance, one purpose of a suit is to protect society by making a recurrence less likely.

A wrongful death lawsuit is never easy, but it becomes even more fraught and challenging when authority figures are involved and may have contributed to the deceased’s death.

Hopefully, you will never be involved in this kind of situation. But if it befalls you or someone else you love, here are some of the basics that you need to know.

  • • Everyone Is Considered Innocent Until Proven Guilty In The Court Of Law
    Even if a citizen is seriously harmed or killed in the course of an arrest, that does not mean that, legally, they are considered “guilty” of any crime. Officers will often justify their response to a situation in terms of “resisting arrest,” but this, too, must be established in court.
  • • Police Departments And Others In The Public Trust Are Required To Provide Information
    During any kind of trial proceeding, each party is required to provide certain information to the legal team on the opposing side. “Discovery” is the process by which we request and gather this information. Police departments are held to very high standards when it comes to discovery.
  • • Today’s Legal Climate Provides Some Solace For Plaintiffs
    It was not that long ago that it was nearly impossible for a wrongful death lawsuit against a police department or individual officer to proceed efficiently. In these difficult times, oversight for law enforcement operations is growing more strict and the public is more aware.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, establishing that the party who was at fault was acting in a negligent manner is often the most important step in receiving an award of damages.

Unfortunately, there are significant difficulties with this in a wrongful death suit involving anyone who is an officer of the public trust, including law enforcement officers, first responders, officers of the court such as judges, and even public officials.

The idea that such authorities are simply “doing their best” even in situations where their decisions turn out to have cataclysmic consequences can be difficult for plaintiffs to overcome.

Likewise, there are always questions about the activities of the deceased, which can be extremely difficult to establish to the satisfaction of a judge or jury.

Nonetheless, if your life has been upended as the result of the death of a loved one and you believe the death was wrongful, the first step is to speak to an attorney who can help you.

Of course, no amount of money can compensate for the loss of a loved one. That said, no case, no matter how complex or charged, is hopeless, and even powerful public institutions can be proactive in providing settlements that can help survivors.

Get the help you need and deserve – contact the wrongful death lawyers at Get Me Justice now.



Michael J. Babboni's wide-ranging legal career is based on the strong belief that everyone should be treated fairly and have access to effective legal help. Michael began putting his beliefs in action by helping the people of St. Petersburg Florida get what they are owed in civil trials fighting to protect families by making corporations pay, and honor their obligations.

What Happens When Wrongful Death Lawsuits Involve The Police?

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh

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