Injury claims stemming from police brutality, misconduct or excessive force cases

The Wall Street Journal reported that the 10 cities with the largest police departments in the U.S. paid out $248.7 million in 2010 in settlements and court judgments in police misconduct cases. The dollar figures attached to such cases have increased over time. In 2015 alone, Baltimore paid out more than $7 million settlements for police misconduct injury claims. This total included a wrongful death settlement in the notorious Freddie Gray case.

Consider this sampling of recent settlements by the city of Baltimore over alleged police misconduct cases:

  • Tiyon Williams filed a lawsuit claiming police misconduct including battery and false arrest after a 2012 altercation with police. His complaint alleged that he suffered injuries to his head and face when they "punched" and "stomped" on him. His head allegedly hit a cement sidewalk. He was taken to a hospital by ambulance from the scene. The city of Baltimore approved a $150,000 settlement in 2016.
  • When 37-year-old Abdul Salaam was injured during an alleged beating by police after a traffic stop in 2013, he filed a civil suit against those officers. His minor injuries put him in the hospital. A jury ultimately agreed with the complaint and awarded him $70,000 in 2016.
  • After the widely reported death of Freddie Gray in police custody in 2015, the city of Baltimore agreed to pay a $6.4 million wrongful death civil settlement.

The city did not admit wrongdoing by police or by the city in any of these cases.

Allegations of police misconduct are common, and social media brings incidents to the forefront

Conflicts between police and the public are not a new phenomenon. Police often use force to contain situations they perceive as dangerous or urgent. As law enforcement officers police their communities day by day, people sometimes get hurt. Police misconduct may or may not be a factor when law enforcement activity results in injuries or fatalities.

What is new, however, is society’s increased awareness of the frequency of police-related injury incidents and fatalities. Witnesses often use cellphones to make videos during altercations. Many then post them on social media forums. Facebook, Instagram and YouTube reach wide audiences quickly. Investigations take time, but public outcry may contribute to a sense of urgency over legal action against police. Legal action may include criminal charges or civil negligence claims.

Criminal charges versus negligence

In rare cases, there may be criminal charges against police as a result of allegations of police brutality and false arrest. This was the case after a Minnesota police officer shot and killed Philando Castile during a routine traffic stop in the summer of 2016. After an investigation, the county attorney charged him with manslaughter. In contrast, the six officers charged after the death of Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore in 2015 escaped convictions when they were acquitted or charges were dropped.

Even when there are no findings of criminal wrongdoing by police, a jury may find evidence of negligence. A civil injury claim may be successful in bringing relief to the injured and their families.

Police misconduct-related injuries may bring about personal injury claims

When a private citizen is injured because of excessive use of force by police, injuries and losses may include medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and in some cases, lasting disability or death. As the injured and their families seek help to cope with the injuries and losses, they may file civil injury or wrongful death claims. The police, the city – and sometimes other parties such as private security firms or property owners – may be found negligent.

The city of Baltimore has been targeted in more and more civil claims over police misconduct in recent years. To avoid drawn-out litigation, the city has agreed to settlements out of court.

The importance of evidence and early attorney involvement

People sometimes assume they should turn to well-known civil rights law firms for help after suffering injuries because of police actions. In fact, an experienced personal injury attorney can be a valuable resource from the beginning. Gathering evidence in a timely manner is essential. A personal injury law firm is well-prepared to document injuries, locate witnesses and document key facts.

Engel Law Group P.C. in Baltimore has the tools and persistence necessary to evaluate injury claim effectively, including cases involving injury or death resulting from police actions. The firm can efficiently and thoughtfully screen cases where police misconduct may have been a causation factor. If a civil lawsuit is appropriate, the attorneys can advise as to the next steps. Recovering compensation for the injured is at the core of this law firm’s mission and purpose.