Was a Loved One Wrongfully Killed Due to Police Negligence
Wrongful deaths are covered under New Jersey state law. But what happens if the death was at the hands of the police or as a result of their negligent actions? What can you do if a loved one was wrongfully killed due to police negligence?
New Jersey Wrongful Death Act
Suits seeking damages for wrongful deaths – including those at the hands of the police – are covered in New Jersey law under Title 2A – Administration of Civil and Criminal Justice. This law states that:
“When the death of a person is caused by a wrongful act, neglect or default, such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the person injured to maintain an action for damages resulting from the injury, the person who would have been liable in damages for the injury if death had not ensued shall be liable in an action for damages, notwithstanding the death of the person injured and although the death was caused under circumstances amounting in law to a crime.”
This act, passed in 2009, is designed to allow for a legal mechanism for the families of the victims of wrongful deaths to seek compensation for the expenses accompanying their loss.
According to a year-long study by the Washington Post, the settlements for wrongful death by police claims vary wildly. The Post’s study, covering all police shootings in 2015, found that settlements for wrongful death cases ranged from $7,500 to $8.5 million, with the median settlement totally $1.2 million. The study also concluded that families who settled before going to trial collected far more than those who were awarded damages following a trial, with the average trial verdict around $500,000.
Because of the discrepancies and difficulties with claiming damages following a wrongful death, you should always consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney before filing any claims.
Wrongful Death by Police: A State or Federal Matter?
Whether wrongful death by police is a state or federal matter is really up to the individuals filing the suit. Plaintiffs may choose to either seek a state compensation claim or a federal claim depending on the circumstances of the case. If the plaintiffs, for example, want to seek a claim against an officer they feel acted either maliciously or negligently, they can file a suit in state court. If, however, they want to argue that the officer in question violated the civil rights of the loved one killed, they can file a federal claim.
A federal claim against a police officer must prove that the officer subjected the victim to “the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws,” as detailed under federal law. The burden of proof for federal claims, it should be noted, is higher than state claims. For state wrongful death claims, the burden of proof threshold relies on “the preponderance of the evidence.” For federal claims, however, there must be “clear and convincing” evidence that the officer violated the civil rights of the victim.
Contact an Experienced New Jersey Wrongful Death Attorney
If a loved one was the victim of someone’s – including the police – you need an experienced and knowledgeable attorney on your side. Rossetti & DeVoto, PC is willing to assist you through the process of claiming compensation your loss. Our New Jersey personal injury attorneys will relentlessly fight for your rights, and make sure you always come out on top. Call us today at (844) 263-6260 for a free, no-obligation consultation.