Law enforcement officers have been given great power to exercise their duties for maintaining law and order. However, there have been too many cases where police officers went overboard and mishandled the situation. While enforcing the law they have been given qualified immunity, but they can be still be held liable for their actions resulting in wrongful death of an individual. So, if your loved one is a victim of misconduct, use of deadly force, or any other action, you can sue the police officer under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act.
Jurisdiction: Making a Federal or State Claim
The surviving family may seek a federal claim that the police officer violated the civil rights of the victim. They may also make a state claim where they may establish that the police officer acted with malicious intent or negligently, causing their loved one’s death. In certain situations, the plaintiff may make both federal and state claims.
For example, if a police officer recklessly drove through a sidewalk while they were in a pursuit to catching a suspect, there is a chance that they may hit and fatally injure a pedestrian, resulting in death. In such a situation, the most suitable way forward would be to make a state claim, however, a federal claim can also be made to allege the officer for using excessive force, which is in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Determining Willful and Unreasonable Conduct
Law enforcement officers are generally safe from lawsuits because of the nature of their job. They are provided with qualified immunity so that they are able to carry out their responsibilities without hesitation and fear of being sued by people, who may get injured as a result.
Typically, a wrongful death lawsuit is filed when the negligence of a person or entity caused death of another individual. However, due to the qualified immunity, the bar has been set high for the negligence to be considered as police misconduct. This means that the failure of an officer to exercise due care is not enough to hold them liable – the conduct must be unreasonable and willful.
A majority of cases for wrongful death against the law enforcement officers involve the use of excessive force. However, whether the use of force by the officer was reasonable is based on several facts and specific circumstances. They are authorized to use a limited amount of force to capture or restrain a suspect, but if your attorney is able to prove that the force used was unreasonable considering the circumstances, you may be able to recover damages.
It is important to issue a notice of your claim to the police or the local government governing the department before you can start working on a potential lawsuit. It must be given within a specified time period after the death of the victim.
Wrongful death cases involving law enforcement are complicated and very difficult to prove liability. If you think that your loved one died because of unreasonable conduct of a police officer, you should discuss your case with an experienced and reliable wrongful death attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, P.C. at (847) 395-2200 or online today to schedule your initial consultation.