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Can You Sue A Police Officer Personally? A Legal Guide

Two thirds of Americans believe that police officers should be held liable for misconduct and use of excessive force.

If you were affected by police misconduct, you might be wondering, “Can you sue a police officer personally?”

Our experienced team at Spar & Bernstein will share the answer in this detailed guide, along with frequently asked questions on the topic, from damages you can claim to the worth of your case and more.

Looking for a personal injury lawyer?

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Bradford H. Bernstein

This article was written and reviewed by Bradford H. Bernstein, a second-generation leader at Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein, P.C., who has helped over 100,000 clients with immigration and personal injury issues. Brad joined the firm in 1993, became a partner in 1997, and assumed leadership in 2000 after Harry Spar retired.

View Brad's Bio

Can You Sue A Police Officer Personally?

Yes, you can sue a police officer personally in some cases.

Although as public servants, police officers have qualified immunity that protects them against lawsuits for actions committed while on the job, you may be able to sue a police officer personally, depending on the situation.

In order to sue a police officer, you must be able to prove that the officer acted negligently or violated your constitutional or statutory rights.

In this case, according to the Federal Tort Claims Act, their immunity is removed, allowing you to file a lawsuit against them.

With a growing number of police misconduct cases across the United States, and follow-up nationwide protests, some states have taken steps to further limit qualified immunity for police officers.

For example, in 2021, the New York City Council passed a bill against the use of excessive force and unreasonable search and seizure.

This change in legislation aimed to restrict police misconduct and make it easier for New York citizens to sue police officers when they overstep their authority.

What Can You Sue A Police Officer For?

You may have the right to sue a police officer for:

  • Police brutality, often referred to as use of excessive force
  • Physical, sexual or mental abuse
  • Unreasonable searches or seizures
  • False arrest
  • Abuse of authority
  • Spoliation of evidence
  • Fraud
  • Perjury
  • Racial profiling
  • Failure to provide prisoners with food and water
  • Refusal to address a serious health condition
  • Wrongful death

If you think your rights were violated or you suffered injuries at the hands of a police officer, you may be able to file a lawsuit against a police officer personally as well as sue the entire police department.

Because the process is complicated and your statements must be supported by extensive evidence, it’s important to partner with an experienced law firm.

For the past 50 years, our attorneys at The Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein have taken on thousands of personal injury clients and we are proud to have a full collection of success stories in our portfolio.

Schedule a consultation with our team to tell us about your experience. We’ll review the details of what happened and determine whether you are within your legal rights to sue a police officer personally.

Two police officers aiming at a suspect in the street
Some of the situations when you can sue a police officer include physical and mental abuse, use of excessive force, racial profiling and fraud

How To Prove That A Police Officer Was Negligent

To prove that a police officer was negligent, you must provide evidence that:

  • The police officer owed you a duty of care, which included protecting you from injuries and protecting your rights
  • The police officer breached their duty of care, by using excessive force, arresting you without a probable cause or failing to allow medical intervention, for example
  • The breach of duty of care by the police officer caused damages or injuries
A client discusses his case with a lawyer
Our tenacious and compassionate team at Spar & Bernstein will discuss your case with you and determine whether you have legal grounds to sue a police officer personally

Have A Case Against A Police Officer? Here’s How We Can Help

Founded by one of the first members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Harry Spar, in 1958, our law firm initially focused on U.S. immigration law to help people pursue their American Dream.

As our team grew, we expanded our practice to include personal injury law, allowing us to reach those who needed legal services to protect their rights in cases of police misconduct, car accidents, construction accidents and more.

If you think you have a case against a police officer and you want to examine your options, give us a call at 800-529-5465 or get in touch using our online form. Our knowledgeable team will review the details of what happened to you and help you determine next steps.

We’ll support you every step of the way, from preparing and filing your lawsuit to negotiating a settlement on your behalf or taking your case to trial.

Addressing each personal story with care and compassion, we have helped over 100,000 individual clients pursue their personal injury and immigration cases — and we can help you, too.

Need legal advice?

Schedule a free consultation!

FAQs About Suing A Police Officer Personally

1. Can I file multiple claims against a police officer?

Depending on the type of misconduct you experienced, you might be able to file more than one claim against a police officer.

For example, if you were hurt during an arrest and the police lied about your injuries in court and the case was dismissed or the charges were dropped by the prosecutors’ office, you may be entitled to two claims: one for police brutality and another for false arrest.

2. What is the statute of limitations for a lawsuit against a police officer?

The statute of limitations to file a lawsuit against a police officer may vary depending on the incident and the state where it occurred. In New York, when government agencies or government officials are involved, a lawsuit must be filed within one (1) year and 90 days.

The first step in the process is sending a Notice of Claim to the police officer, informing them of your intention to start legal proceedings — this should be done no later than 90 days after the incident occurred or within 90 days after the case is dismissed or the charges against you are dropped by the prosecutor’s office.

3. What types of lawsuits can I file against a police officer?

There are several types of lawsuits that can filed if you were injured or if your rights were violated by a police officer:

  • A civil lawsuit, to seek compensation for the injuries or damages suffered as a result of police misconduct
  • A class action lawsuit, if there is evidence that other people have experienced the same event and they decide to seek compensation as a group

Some of the above lawsuits can be filed against a police department or a police officer individually. Some can also be filed against both.

Our experienced attorneys at The Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein will determine the type of misconduct that caused your injuries or loss and recommend the best path forward to reach a settlement.

4. Can I reach a settlement in a case against a police officer without going to court?

Yes, it is possible to reach a settlement without going to court. If your evidence is strong enough to support your claim and the police officer wants to avoid negative publicity, they might consider settlement negotiations. However, typically you will need to sit for a 50-H hearing and a deposition.

This will allow you to reach an agreement about the damages you are seeking. Partnering with a trusted lawyer will ensure you receive the maximum compensation for your injuries.

5. What damages can I pursue in a lawsuit against a police officer?

A lawsuit against a police officer allows you to seek:

  • Economic damages, including medical expenses for hospital bills, medication, therapy and assistive devices, lost wages and lost earning capacity
  • Non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium and loss of enjoyment of life

6. What evidence can I use to support my lawsuit against a police officer?

To support your lawsuit against a police officer, you can use:

  • Evidence about the police officer who caused your injuries or violated your rights, such as their physical description, badge number or photo
  • Photos of your injuries
  • Police reports detailing the incident
  • Medical documents proving you sustained injuries and needed treatment
  • Witness statements

7. How much can I get if I sue a police officer personally?

The worth of your case against a police officer will vary depending on different factors, such as:

  • The type of misconduct you are suing for
  • The injuries or damages you suffered
  • The impact of your injuries on your life
  • The time you need to recover
  • The amount of time incarcerated
  • The evidence you are able to provide

Allegations involving police misconduct in the U.S. have amounted to over $3 billion paid out to victims within the past decade. Schedule a consultation with our team to determine whether you have a case against a police officer, or the entire police department.

Looking for an experienced personal injury attorney?

Contact us!

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