How Does a Police Excessive Force Lawsuit Work in New York?

Sakkas Cahn & Weiss

When police officers use excessive force against you, they’re not only injuring you, they are violating your Fourth Amendment rights.

While it’s not always easy to hold the police accountable for their action, pursuing a personal injury case against the police can be worthwhile. You may receive compensation for your injuries and trauma, and you can show that using excessive force is an unacceptable act that should (and sometimes does) have consequences.

Here’s what you need to know about these cases

“Excessive” force is a fuzzy standard.

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New York law does not offer any concrete definition of “excessive” force. The force that would be reasonable in one scenario could be considered excessive in another.

There is such a thing as a “Use of Force” continuum. Officers should always use the least amount of force necessary to resolve a situation. The National Institute of Justice uses the following continuum:

  • Officer Presence
  • Verbal Intervention
  • Empty Hand Force
  • Non-Lethal Force
  • Lethal Force

An officer who goes straight to lethal force or downright assault, even when unnecessary, can be held accountable.

What are some examples of excessive force?

You may have grounds for a police brutality or excessive force case if any of the following is true.

  • The police went straight to physical force when interacting with you, never issuing any verbal commands.
  • You were punched, kicked, beaten, or choked when you were already cuffed or subdued.
  • You were assaulted when you were not resisting in any way.
  • An officer shot you (or your loved one) when they offered no threat and were not armed.
  • The police assaulted you or threatened to assault you in a bid to coerce you into confessing to a crime.
  • The police killed your loved one while in custody, either by assaulting them or negligently denying them lifesaving medications.

Other forms of police brutality do not involve force such as this. Those forms of misconduct can also lead to a personal injury lawsuit when they cause harm. For example, our firm also handles false arrest claims, invasion of privacy claims, police sexual assault claims, and more.

You should never assume you do or do not have a case. You should always speak to a qualified injury attorney. Our lawyers are happy to look at the facts of the case and determine whether you have grounds for a lawsuit.

Who may be held liable for an excessive force claim?

You can sue the officer involved, any officers on the scene, and the law enforcement department itself.

We must prove different claims to sue each of these entities. To sue the officer, we must show the officer used excessive force. To sue the police on the scene, we must prove they had a realistic opportunity to prevent the harm and failed to act.

To sue the department, we must show that they acted negligently in some way and that negligence made the incident possible. For example, we may be able to compare the precinct’s training standards and schedules to statewide or national norms. If we could show that the precinct was not training its officers correctly, we’d have a potential case against them.

How Qualified Immunity Impacts an Excessive Force Case

While many are pushing to end qualified immunity in New York, it has not happened yet. Qualified immunity can make it difficult to hold an officer accountable because they have broad discretionary powers to perform their duties so long as their conduct doesn’t violate clearly established constitutional or statutory rights.

In order to sue the police, we must establish that they acted both unreasonably and willfully.

We also must act fast. If you wish to press a police brutality suit, it is imperative that you act quickly. Involving a lawyer fast helps us gather evidence that you will need to prove your case.

If you are a victim, seek medical attention as soon as possible, document your claim, and contact a New York personal injury attorney as soon as you can. To document your claim, you should write down the officer’s name and badge number, write down patrol car numbers, note any weapons the police used, and write down any other details you can remember. This can help us gather evidence.

Get Help Today

Our firm has a proven track record of success with police brutality cases. We have successfully overcome challenges in many of these cases and helped our clients claim compensation.

Call us! It’s risk-free, and we may be able to help us where nobody else can. We’re happy to review your case and to discuss next steps.

See also:

What Can You Do if the Police Use Excessive Force?

Yes, You Can Fight Against Police Brutality

Supreme Court Holds Objective Standard Should Be Applied to Determine Whether Force Used by Police Was Excessive

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