Sovereign laws were put into effect in the early days of the United States to protect all levels of government. At some point, the idea of sovereign law fell out of favor and the federal government opened itself up to being sued by its citizens. Each state followed suit, and now the State of New York allows its residents to file personal injury lawsuits against any government entity within the state for almost any reason.
By 2011, residents in New York State could sue any municipality for any reason as long as the situation involved negligence in delivering municipal services to the public. These included police negligence and the ability to sue the police for wrongful death. However, even though the rules have changed, it can still be difficult to sue the police for wrongful death.
Police Accused Of Causing A Wrongful Death
In 2016, a New Jersey man and his family were involved in a two-car collision on FDR Drive at around 5:00 p.m. There were no injuries in the accident, but the man decided to call the police to get an accident report generated. By 7:00 p.m., the man had been told several times by dispatch that a police car was on the way to take the accident report, but no cruiser ever arrived. At 7:27 p.m., the man saw a police officer standing on the other side of the freeway and went to talk to that officer when he crossed the busy freeway to get back to his car he was hit by another vehicle and killed.
The family is suing the police department for wrongful death, insisting that the police were negligent in not sending out a cruiser when several calls had been made. The family points to the fact that dispatch had said that cruisers were on the way several times, but none ever arrived. As of April 2017, the case is still being decided.
Does The Family Have A Case That Could Win?
In the state of New York (the accident occurred in the jurisdiction of Manhattan), a victim only has 90 days to file a personal injury complaint against a municipality. This accident occurred in January 2016 and the lawsuit was filed in April 2017. It is possible that the courts will throw this case out because the statute of limitations has expired.
But what would happen if the courts do agree to hear the case? Is this police negligence, or bad judgment on the part of the victim? The dispatcher repeatedly told the victim that a cruiser was on the way and, as far as the dispatcher knew, that was the truth. The dispatcher could have very well decided to send out a cruiser to the location of the accident and officially logged the call, but that does not mean a cruiser responded immediately.
Police in the New York-New Jersey area is extremely busy. In the case of many municipal services that are provided to the public, there is a priority list that is used to determine who gets attention first. If the police had run into a series of critical calls during that two-hour span, then they need to prioritize the calls they go out to and getting a traffic accident report falls down the list of priorities. If the police can show a significant amount of activity at that particular time, then it is possible the court will rule in favor of the police.
Understanding Direct Or Indirect Negligence
When it comes to suing law enforcement for wrongful death, every citizen in the state of New York has the right to file a complaint. However, most courts will automatically throw out cases where families feel that their loved ones’ death was the indirect result of police negligence. The courts will also throw out any case that is not filed within the 90-day time limit, which is something important for victims to remember.
However, if you do try to sue the officers for wrongful death, remember that you are still responsible for your own actions. Choosing to cross a busy freeway because you are not impressed with the response time from the police is a decision that you make. If officers are busy with more urgent calls, then your accident report may have to wait until the police do their best to prevent catastrophes throughout the immediate area.