Police department settles wrongful death suit for $1.9 million

The loss of a loved one due to another person's misconduct is a tragedy that no compensation can truly equate. While no amount of money can bring back a loved one, file a civil action has its benefits. A tragic death from back in 2015 in southern California, however, illustrates the important role that a wrongful death lawsuit can play in providing some measure of accountability and closure.

The incident began when police received reports that one homeless man was threatening another in an area of the city where homeless people commonly sought shelter. There were disputed allegations that the man attempted to seize a gun from one of the responding officers; at some point, the man was shot and killed by police. A witness uploaded a smartphone video of the episode to social media, which then went viral, leading to public outcry.

The police department did not charge the officers criminally, but the victim's family members filed a civil lawsuit against the officers and the department for wrongful death, among other claims. As a civil claim, the threshold of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence. In a wrongful death action is actually easier to reach than it is in a criminal case, which is beyond a reasonable doubt. This is one reason why a wrongful death claim can move forward and even succeed in holding a negligent party accountable when criminal charges are not filed - or even if the negligent person is found not guilty of criminal charges.

The homeless man's family's claim was recently settled by the police department for nearly $2 million. In addition to providing a form of recognition and validation of the harm that family members have suffered, compensation obtained through a wrongful death action like this can help to ensure that a family's financial foundations are secured in spite of their loss.

Those who have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another party should understand they have options. A civil action can provide financial compensation, which helps offset the financial hardships caused by the fatal incident.

Source: U.S. News, "Settlement Reached in LA Shooting of Homeless Black Man," May 10, 2018

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