Most police officers dutifully and responsibly provide an essential element of our society – law enforcement and protection. Unfortunately, police officers may have to use deadly force in some cases. While the law allows for use of deadly force in specific situations, there are cases where the use of deadly force is excessive and unwarranted.
These are tragedies that no family should have to endure. The law provides these families the ability to pursue a wrongful death case in such situations. But these cases can be complicated and emotional. Make sure you have the appropriate legal representation and guidance if you’re pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against a police officer or police department for excessive use of deadly force.
Current Laws on the Use of Deadly Force
Title 18 of Pennsylvania Code Section 505(a) explicitly states that the use of force is allowed for self-protection, including “if the actor is a public officer acting in the performance of his duties or a person lawfully assisting him therein or a person making a lawful arrest.” The law further stipulates that deadly force is not permitted unless the actor believe that deadly force is necessary to protect against serious bodily injury, forced sexual intercourse, or death.
Per Title 18 of Pennsylvania Code Section 508, police officers cannot use deadly force unless there is a direct threat to the officer in the form of serious bodily injury or death. Officers can also use deadly force if the person being arrested is resisting arrest or trying to escape and the person possesses a deadly weapon, has committed a forcible felony, or otherwise “indicates that he will endanger human life or inflict serious bodily injury unless arrested without delay.”
Understanding Liability for Excessive Use of Force
When a police officer uses excessive deadly force, liability is not straightforward. The police officer or the police department may be liable for damages that the family suffered as a result of the wrongful death.
To prove liability, a plaintiff must establish that the use of deadly force was not inherently associated with the duty of the law enforcement officer. If you are filing a claim against a police officer or police department, the process of doing so is also different than it is against a non-governmental employee. This includes providing a notice of claim in advance. Make sure you have legal help to navigate the legal process.
Like any wrongful death case, one involving police use of deadly force will need to prove enough evidence of liability. In these cases, it includes evidence that the force was excessive for the situation, that the force cause the victim’s death, and that the surviving family suffered damages. Damages might include those listed below.
- Medical expenses
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of support
- Pecuniary value of services
- Loss of guidance
Review specific damages you may recover with your attorney for more case-specific information.
Discuss a Wrongful Death Claim with a Lawyer at Cordisco & Saile LLC
Understanding whether deadly force is justified, who to hold liable for the family’s damages, and what damages may be recoverable is complex in these cases. At Cordisco & Saile LLC, our legal team can review your case and tell you exactly what you need to know about the steps you must take next. We can even help you build your case and handle all of the legal intricacies that might arise along the way.