Lately, it seems like every time we turn on the news we hear another story in which law enforcement officers are alleged to have responded with excessive force or otherwise acted inappropriately in the line of duty. We’ve been witness to a series of tragic incidents nationwide involving fatal shootings by police of unarmed teenagers, which have made us aware of the grave dimensions of the problem.
As these stories have received more attention and news coverage, claims of police misconduct have also become a more frequent occurrence in my legal practice. In the last year alone I have fielded dozens of inquiries from people about potential claims that their rights have been violated by a law enforcement officer — far more than any previous period in my career. Most of the calls I receive are those relating to “excessive force” claims – that is injuries sustained as a result of an arrest and/or interrogation by someone involved in law enforcement. Over the course of the next few weeks I am going to address this topic here on my blog.
At the outset, I want to make it clear that I do not approach this issue with a political agenda, one way or the other. I strongly believe that the vast majority of police officers are decent, hardworking, underappreciated and underpaid, given the difficult job they have to do — keeping our streets safe.
Nonetheless, as a lawyer, I strongly believe it is my obligation to clients and potential clients to investigate these claims seriously, and to seek redress under the law whenever a wrong appears to have been done. As I will further explain in the course of the next few weeks, these are difficult cases to litigate, involving complex legal issues and requiring a high threshold of evidence in order for a claim to survive judicial scrutiny. In my next blog post I will explain the applicable legal standard in New York State governing cases for wrongful arrest and excessive force and after that I will provide examples of the types of cases that I have handled recently based upon these types of claims.
Finally, as a closing note to this introductory blog post on this topic, I want to emphasize that if you (or a friend or family member) believe that you have been subject to a wrongful arrest and/or an injury caused by excessive force, it is important that you act promptly in order to preserve a potential claim. New York law requires a claim must be filed against the responsible public entity as follows:
- 90 days to file a formal claim against a city in New York, and one year and 90 days to file a lawsuit against a city. (N.Y. Gen. Mun. Laws § 50-e.)
- 90 days to file a formal claim against a county in New York, and one year and 90 days to file a lawsuit. (N.Y. County Law § 52.)
- 90 days to file a claim against the State of New York (or notice of intent to file claim if, within the 90 days, you are unable to arrive at a final claim figure, such as if your medical treatment is incomplete). (N.Y. Court of Claims Act § 10.)