Maryland is no stranger to allegations of police brutality. The death in police custody of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African America man in Baltimore in 2015, sparked the Baltimore riots. You can sue if the police injure you in Maryland but you face specific obstacles after filing suit against a government. Filing a lawsuit against the State of Maryland for the actions of its employees is not as straightforward as suing an individual.
If you suffered an injury or lost a family member due to the actions of a police officer in Maryland you must act quickly. As well as the usual rules in a lawsuit, your action is governed by the restrictions of the Maryland Tort Claims Act. At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, we can advise you whether you have a legitimate claim for injuries caused by a police officer. You can sue Maryland police authorities for a range of wrongs. Not all of them involve physical injuries. Governments have been sued for racial profiling, wrongful arrest and wrongful imprisonment. These cases are also known as civil rights violations. Baltimore personal injury lawyer Randolph Rice discusses how to sue the police if they injured you in Maryland.
Common Injuries Caused by Police Officers in Maryland
Police officers perform a very stressful job. On occasions, they respond to a situation with a disproportionate level of violence that can leave a victim injured. Sometimes vulnerable people suffering from mental illness who called the police for help end up harmed. Criminal action may be taken by prosecutors against police officers for violent acts. The victim or his or her family often also have grounds to take out a personal injury action against the officer and the state. This is separate from a criminal action and may be successful even if charges are not brought against an officer or he is acquitted. The burden of proof in a civil action is not as onerous as in a criminal prosecution.
The main causes of injuries caused by police officers are as follows:
According to a Washington Post database, 783 people have been fatally shot by police in the United States in 2019 alone. Thousands more have been injured.
Tasers are non-lethal weapons used to subdue people through the use of electric shocks. Unfortunately, they can cause heart attacks and other serious health conditions in certain people. Reuters has documented at least 1,081 taser-related deaths in the United States since the weapons were first used by police in the early 2000s. Many more people ended up injured. Investigations found many officers are not properly trained in the use of tasers.
Deaths in Police Custody
The Marshall Project records the deaths of more than 540 people in police custody in the United States. The causes of some of these deaths in police cells are unknown.
Deaths by Police Vehicles
High-speed police pursuits are controversial, particularly when they are sparked by a minor traffic infraction like a speeding driver seeking to elude police. Police chases, often at high speeds, continue to kill many other road users such as innocent bystanders, pedestrians, cyclists, other drivers and motorists involved in the pursuit. At least 416 people died in police chases in 2017, an analysis of federal records by FairWarning found. The numbers of police car accident deaths are rising. 2017 was the fourth consecutive year when the number of people killed during police chases increased.
Filing a Police Brutality Injury Lawsuit in Maryland
You must take a “Tort Claims Act” action to sue the police or another government worker in Maryland. The Tort Claims Act requires the injured party to act more quickly than in a personal injury action against a private individual in which the victim has years to file a lawsuit under the statute of limitations. A written claim must be filed with the treasurer or the treasurer’s designee within a year of the injury or wrongful death.
You must mail, deliver, or fax a letter to the Maryland State Treasurer stating why you believe the state or an employee did something wrong. This is called a claim letter. It must contain certain information including a description of the injury, the names and addresses of people who are involved, and a statement of where and how the injury occurred.
Your Maryland police injury attorney can draft this letter on your behalf. It’s vital to act quickly on these claims and talk to an attorney as soon as possible.
Baltimore Police Brutality Case Involving Freddie Gray
Freddie Gray was arrested by Baltimore Police in April 2015 on a weapons charge. He suffered severe spinal injuries during transit in the back of a police van. He died of his injuries several days later. Police said Gray was not buckled in but it’s unclear how he sustained his injuries.
The driver of the van was acquitted of murder and the authorities dropped charges against the other officers in the van. However, the City of Baltimore agreed to pay $6.4 million to Gray’s family soon after his death. Former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she proposed the payout to avoid “costly and protracted litigation” from the Gray family.
Compensation Limitations in Injury Claims Against Maryland Police
The state also benefits from caps on the amount a claimant can recover. Under the Maryland Tort Claims Act, the state cannot be held liable for more than $400,000 for injuries arising from a single incident or $800,000 for total claims arising from the incident. The cap was increased from $200,000 to $400,000 by the Maryland legislature after the death of Freddie Gray. However, it remains low compared to the amounts that can be awarded in cases that are not brought against a government entity. The cap means some people injured by police or the families of the deceased receive far less money than a jury believes they are entitled to.
In 2018, a jury in Baltimore County awarded $37 million to the family of Korean Gaines, a 23-year-old who was shot and killed by police in her Randallstown home in August 2016 after a six-hour standoff with officers. Experts said Gaines’ relatives and son who was five-years-old at the time of the shooting were unlikely to see the full amount. However, the Baltimore Sun reported the jury found the officer who shot and killed Gaines also violated her and her son’s federal constitutional rights. The penalties for this are not capped by state law.
When we are asked ‘can you sue if the police injure you in Maryland’ we tell clients it’s certainly possible to sue governments over the action of law enforcement officers. This can be police in cities like Baltimore, state troopers, campus police, federal investigators, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or others. Police brutality has become an increasingly high-profile issue following a series of scandals in recent years. In many communities, the tide of public opinion is turning away from giving police the benefit of the doubt.
Talk to a Baltimore Personal Injury Lawyer About Suing the Police
We expect police officers to uphold law and order in fairly. However, there are many instances of disproportionate use of force against unarmed people, those who suffer from mental illness or are vulnerable and in need of help. Please talk to our Maryland personal injury lawyers about lawsuits over injuries caused by police officers. Call us today for a free, no obligations consultation at 410-431-0911.