Wrongful Death by Police Officer

Police officers we entrust to enforce the law should be held accountable when they do not follow it. If you have wrongfully lost a loved one due to police misconduct, you may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit for damages.

Wrongful Death by Police Officer

Deadly Force Laws

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1985 that deadly force can only be used by a police officer when:

  • It is necessary to prevent an escape; and,
  • There is probable cause to believe the suspect poses a significant threat of serious physical injury or death to the officer or others.

Therefore, the degree of force used must be proportional to the threat. For example, in a wrongful death case involving a police officer, the primary point of contention will be whether the officer was justified in using deadly force or if their actions are grounds for misconduct.

Grounds for a Wrongful Death Claim

In Nevada, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate or surviving heirs can file a wrongful death claim when a loved one is killed due to intentional harm or the negligence of another person. Whether you have grounds for a wrongful death claim will depend on if your Las Vegas wrongful death attorney can prove the police officer’s use of deadly force was, more likely than not, unjustified. To do so will require a thorough investigation into the incident, including gathering critical evidence such as:

  • The police reports
  • Eyewitness interviews
  • Body camera footage
  • Police car video footage
  • Available videos or photos from witnesses
  • Nearby video surveillance footage
  • Medical records and the coroner’s report
  • Copies of any prior complaints against the police officer
  • Any records of suspensions or reprimands
  • Testimony from experts who can establish what another reasonable police officer would have done in a similar situation

Hiring a personal injury attorney quickly after your loved one’s death is vital to ensuring they are able to build a solid claim against the officer. Unfortunately, evidence can disappear, and witnesses’ memories will fade, making it much more challenging to achieve a successful outcome.

Who Is Liable for Wrongful Death by Police Officer?

When a police officer’s misconduct turns deadly, the police department is liable rather than the individual officer. Under Nevada’s doctrine of vicarious liability, employers are responsible for the negligent actions of employees that result in harm. As a result, surviving family members have the right to file a lawsuit against the police department to recover reimbursement for medical bills, funeral expenses, loss of expected income and benefits, pain and suffering, and more. It is rare for officers to face criminal charges for a civilian fatality, but the legal standards to evaluate whether excessive force merits a criminal charge are changing.