While arresting someone, police officers often have to make split-second decisions—especially when the suspect is behaving in an aggressive and threatening manner. In some instances, the officer may attempt to place the suspect in a chokehold position. Although this course of action may help to restrain the suspect, it can also lead to strangulation, suffocation, asphyxia, or death. Positional asphyxia, for example, occurs when the person is placed in a position that prevents him or her from breathing properly.

If you or someone you love was injured or died because of police chokeholds that were unnecessary under the circumstances, you may bring a civil cause of action against the police officer—and possibly the municipality as well—for monetary compensation and damages. The experienced Philadelphia police brutality lawyers at The Zeiger Firm can assist you with all of the legal steps related to filing your claim and pursuing the compensation you deserve.

What Constitutes Reasonable Force Under the Circumstances?

When police officers are acting within the scope of their duties, they are allowed to use a reasonable amount of physical force under the circumstances. The legal standard to determine whether a police officer’s actions are reasonable under the circumstances is that of a hypothetical ‘reasonable police officer’ who is acting under the same or similar circumstances.

Generally speaking, a police officer can only use deadly force if he or she, or someone else, is being threatened with death or serious bodily harm. In that instance, the officer is authorized to use a proportionate amount of force to subdue the threat. For example, in cases where an officer is trying to subdue a suspect accused of committing a violent crime, the officer is more likely to be justified in using deadly force than if the suspect committed a petty theft crime.

If extreme force is necessary and authorized, a police officer may place a suspect in a chokehold to subdue him or her. However, the question of whether a certain amount of force is reasonable under specific circumstances is a very fact-sensitive inquiry.

Filing a Claim Against the Police Officer or Municipality

Pursuant to the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a person who is suspected of committing a crime may not be subjected to searches and seizures that are unreasonable. Unlawfully placing a suspect in a chokehold, or otherwise limiting the suspect’s freedom and liberty to move about, is a Fourth Amendment violation. If the victim suffers a strangulation or asphyxiation injury as a result of being placed in a chokehold, then he or she may file a claim or lawsuit for damages. Moreover, if the suspect dies as a result of police misconduct, then the suspect’s surviving family members may bring a claim for wrongful death.

When it comes to police misconduct cases that involve chokeholds, strangulation, and asphyxiation, the injured victim may file a claim or lawsuit directly against the police officer or officers who directly participated in the incident. Moreover, the victim may sue the police department or the municipality that employs the officer.

To pursue action against the police department or municipality, however, the police misconduct must be traced back to inadequate police protocols or training that were in place at the time of the altercation. In other words, victims cannot file a lawsuit against the police department or municipality simply because the offending officer works there (based upon a vicarious liability or agency theory of recovery).

A knowledgeable federal civil rights attorney can assist you in bringing a legal claim or filing a lawsuit against all potentially responsible individuals and entities in your civil case.

Damages Associated with Police Brutality

If you or someone you love has suffered a strangulation or asphyxiation injury as a result of a police chokehold that should not have occurred, you may bring a claim for monetary compensation and damages. Monetary compensation in a police misconduct case can take several different forms. For example, if the strangulation, suffocation, or asphyxiation injury resulted in medical treatment and lost earnings, you may be eligible to recover monetary compensation for those damages. Likewise, you can file a claim for all of the pain, inconvenience, and suffering that you experienced as a result of your injuries, including compensation for mental anguish and possible Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Additionally, victims of police strangulation may file a claim for punitive damages. These damages are meant to punish the offending party and are available when the at-fault party acted in a manner that was particularly reckless and egregious under the circumstances.

Finally, if the police strangulation victim died during the altercation, then surviving family members may file a claim for wrongful death. As part of a wrongful death claim, loved ones may pursue pain and suffering damages, as well as compensation for future loss of income and loss of future companionship from the deceased.

An experienced federal civil rights attorney will help you pursue the maximum amount of compensation available to you in your case.

Contact Our Lawyers to Start Your Police Brutality Claim

The experienced legal team at The Zeiger Firm is ready to help you pursue your police misconduct case. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a police brutality lawyer, please call us at (215) 546-0340 or contact us online today to learn more.