Police officers are prohibited from using excessive force during the arrest and apprehension of an individual who is suspected of committing a crime. In fact, doing so violates the United States Constitution, in particular the Fourth Amendment. When police officers behave in an overzealous manner when engaging with a criminal suspect, the incident can sometimes lead to an unnecessary shooting which causes the suspect to suffer one or more serious injuries.
In the worst cases, an unlawful police shooting can lead to the suspect’s wrongful death. Injured police shooting victims (or the shooting victim’s loved ones, in a wrongful death case) are entitled to justice and, in some instances, monetary compensation.
Proving a police shooting case can be extremely difficult. Consequently, if you or a loved one was the victim of an unlawful police shooting, you need a team of federal civil rights lawyers on your side that regularly (and successfully) handles these types of cases and knows the law.
The federal civil rights lawyers at The Zeiger Firm will do everything possible to thoroughly investigate your case and get you the justice and monetary compensation you deserve. Our team will consult with medical examiners, forensic investigators, firearms and ballistic experts, and individuals who specialize in law enforcement training and tactics, to determine exactly what happened and the nature of the circumstances which led up to the shooting incident.
Please call us today for more information about how we can help you take legal action in your federal police shooting case. Our knowledgeable team of experienced Philadelphia police brutality attorneys handles federal cases that arise in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which includes the following counties: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, and Philadelphia.
Using a Reasonable Amount of Force Under the Circumstances
Unlawful police shooting cases can occur in various places, including at a traffic stop or even while in the suspect’s own home. Moreover, police shooting cases may involve county, state, or city sheriff’s deputies and police officers. There is no disputing that police officers at these levels are able (and sometimes even required) to use a reasonable amount of force when carrying out their duties. When it comes to police brutality cases that involve a shooting, however, the main question is whether or not the police officer who responded to the scene used an excessive—or unreasonable—amount of force under the circumstances which existed at that time.
Police officers who use an excessive amount of force in a specific instance may be accused of violating the United States Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects individuals accused of committing a crime from being the subject of overly intrusive and unreasonable searches and seizures. Put simply, if a police officer decides to use deadly force under the given circumstances, he or she must have a very good reason for doing so. Police shooting cases are extremely fact-sensitive for this reason.
Moreover, an officer who uses excessive force under the circumstances may raise the legal defense of qualified immunity. To combat this legal defense, the shooting victim must demonstrate that a reasonable police officer under the same circumstances would have known whether or not using deadly force was necessary and appropriate.
How Are Police Shooting Cases Different from Other Types of Civil Cases?
There is no disputing that a civil lawsuit involving a police shooting differs greatly from other types of civil lawsuits. First of all, given the extremely dangerous nature of police work, officers have a significant amount of discretion when it comes to deciding where and when they should use force—even deadly force. Moreover, in civil jury cases that involve police shootings, jurors tend to favor police officer testimony.
Finally, just because a police officer may be deemed responsible for using excessive force under a given set of circumstances, this does not necessarily mean that the municipality (such as the county or city for whom the police officer works) is also responsible for the incident. To prove liability (or fault) on the part of a municipality, the police shooting victim will need to demonstrate that the general customs, policies, patterns, or practices of the municipality are deficient and/or defective—and that the police shooting occurred as a result. An experienced federal civil rights lawyer can assist you in meeting the required burden of proof in your case.
Potential Monetary Compensation in Cases That Involve an Unlawful Police Shooting
To recover monetary compensation in a federal police shooting case, the police officer (or the police officer’s employer, in some cases) must be deemed at-fault for the shooting. In that instance, the police shooting victim—or the police shooting victim’s loved ones, in the case of a wrongful death—may recover monetary compensation.
Those potential damages fit into several categories, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical bills for injuries and treatment which resulted from the police shooting
- Costs of future medical bills and procedures
- Lost income
If the shooting results in death, the shooting victim’s loved ones or estate may file a wrongful death claim against the responsible officer and/or police department. If this should occur, the claimant or claimants may pursue compensation for the loss of their loved one, such as potential future earnings.
In some cases, the shooting victim may pursue punitive damages against the police officer if the officer acted out of malice or reckless disregard for human life.
Call Us Today to Speak with Our Police Shooting Attorneys
If you or a loved one has been the victim of an unlawful police shooting, experienced legal representation is a must. At The Zeiger Firm, our legal team will fight for justice on your behalf and help you pursue compensation for your injuries, pain, and suffering. We work with clients throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a police shooting attorney, call us at (215) 546-0340 or contact us online today to learn more.