While there is no comprehensive, accurate database of fatal police encounters in the United States, multiple studies have combined the best available data to show that at least half of the people who are killed by the police every year have a mental health problem. The brave men and women who have served in our country’s military are tragically over-represented in this segment of the population, with around 30% of veterans reporting at least one mental health diagnosis.
In lawsuits that involve a police officer, it is crucial to connect with a skilled and experienced lawyer who can help you investigate the decision of the officer to use deadly force, and navigate the complex legal issues that often surround these cases. The lawyers at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt have years of experience in dealing with civil rights cases and wrongful death lawsuits, and can help your family move forward in gaining closure and justice after a severe injury or death of a loved one.
Can You Sue a Police Officer for a Wrongful Death?
Policing is a dangerous job, and chaotic situations can quickly arise that may result in severe injuries or death. But if an officer takes actions that violate an individual’s civil rights, or causes injury or death due to negligence, then it is possible to bring a civil lawsuit against them.
These lawsuits may claim damages for:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Punitive damages
What Percentage of Police Contacts Involve a Person With a Mental Illness?
Although there are fewer than 1 in 50 adults in the United States with an untreated severe mental illness, somewhere between 25-50% of every fatal encounter with a police officer nationwide involves someone with a severe mental illness.
Veterans who have been detained or arrested are referred to as justice-involved veterans. More than half of all justice-involved veterans have a documented mental health issue, putting them at a much higher risk of suicide, and at a higher risk of having a fatal encounter with a police officer.
What Are the Most Commonly Diagnosed Mental Health Conditions Among Veterans?
The three most common mental health issues for veterans are:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTSD is associated with an increased risk of violence, and veterans with PTSD combined with alcohol use are at a much higher risk of committing a violent act. Despite these links, the risk of someone with PTSD committing a violent act is relatively low.
- Depression: At least 20% of all veterans suffer from severe depression, and face a variety of barriers to receiving care and treatment for this condition. Suicidal thoughts are often prominent in major depressive conditions, which can quickly turn any encounter with the police deadly.
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI): Individuals with a TBI can exhibit a wide range of problems in thinking, with language, or emotions. They are susceptible to mental health issues such as severe depression, anxiety, difficulty controlling anger, or substance abuse. It can be difficult for police officers to tell if someone has a TBI or is intoxicated, as intoxication can mimic TBI. A number of legal actions have resulted from confrontations between police officers and veterans with TBI when the officers assumed the veteran was exhibiting suspicious behavior or noncompliance.
While it may seem like an insurmountable task to bring a lawsuit against a police force, when your loved one has been the victim of a violent encounter then that police department can and should be held accountable. Nearly one in five Americans live with a mental illness, and these individuals are our family members, our friends, and our loved ones. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and to be served and protected by our law enforcement officers like all members of our society.
The lawyers at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt are committed to obtaining justice for victims of violent police encounters and their families, and have the experience and track record to deliver proven results. Our team of experienced attorneys includes S. Lee Merritt Esq., a nationally recognized lawyer who was named one of the nation’s top activist attorneys by the National Bar Association, and one of the nation’s top civil rights attorneys by CNN. Contact our team today for a free and confidential consultation by filling out our form or by calling 1-866-869-5318.