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Can the police be sued for wrongful death after misconduct?

Over the past year, many prominent news stories have highlighted police misconduct. In several of these high-profile cases, police misconduct is alleged to have resulted in the untimely deaths of individuals who were being questioned by the police. In such situations, New Jersey residents may wonder, is it possible for surviving family members of the deceased to sue the police for wrongful death?

Typically, wrongful death lawsuits involve death by negligence or sometimes the intentional act of another person. Since it is certainly possible for a police officer, just like any other person, to behave negligently with tragic results, family members of the deceased have filed wrongful death suits against police. It's important to know that a police officer could also be charged with homicide if he or she negligently took the life of another; however, it is also possible, in general, for civil claims to be brought against such officers if negligence can be proven.

A police officer may cause a wrongful death by behaving in a negligent manner, such as ignoring gun safety procedures and accidentally discharging a firearm in the direction of another human being. A police officer could also cause a wrongful death by willfully violating the civil rights of a person during the process of an arrest or just questioning a person about a potential crime. In either case, it can be difficult to prove negligence or willful disregard of civil rights, since officers must make split-second decisions involving life or death.

Police wrongdoing is more than just a hot topic these days. It reveals a serious issue that can affect anyone who has an encounter with those tasked with enforcing the law. When the sudden loss of a loved one is caused by a police officer's actions, it may be beneficial to find out one's legal rights from an experienced New Jersey wrongful death attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "Wrongful Death by Police," accessed Dec. 26, 2016

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