Tue 02 Jan, 2024 Police Misconduct

How to Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against the Police

If the police killed your loved one, you can bring a wrongful death lawsuit to get justice.

With a wrongful death lawsuit, you can receive compensation for your pain and suffering. Also, by exposing the police brutality, you can help ensure that the corrupt officers face consequences and never harm a person again.

This guide discusses the elements of a wrongful death claim, the stages of a lawsuit, and the typical wrongful death payouts. If you believe that your family member was wrongfully killed by the NYPD, contact Cody Warner, P.C. for a free consultation. We can evaluate your case and discuss your options.

The Legal Elements of Wrongful Death Lawsuits Against the Police

In New York, the elements of a wrongful death claim are:

  1. the death of a human being;
  2. a wrongful act, neglect or default of the defendant that caused the decedent’s death;
  3. the survival of distributes who suffered pecuniary loss by reason of the decedent’s death; and
  4. the appointment of a personal representative of the decedent.

In wrongful death cases, the main issue for the jury to decide is typically element #2. Specifically, the question for the jury is often whether the defendant wrongfully caused the decedent’s death.

When a wrongful death lawsuit is brought against the police, another common claim in the lawsuit is “excessive force.” Excessive force occurs when a police officer uses force that is unreasonable under the circumstances. Excessive force is a constitutional violation that can be commenced in federal court.

The Stages of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against the Police

A wrongful death lawsuit can resolve quickly or drag out for years. When the defendants acknowledge their wrongdoing, they may rapidly offer to settle the case to avoid the risk of bigger jury verdict. The advantage of a settlement is that, although the award may be lower than a jury verdict, the outcome is certain and usually faster. As they say, sometimes a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. Every case is different, so your lawyer will discuss the pros and cons of any settlement offers received.

If the defendants do not offer a fair settlement offer, then you can march forward to trial.

If you bring a wrongful death action against the NYPD in New York City, your case may go through several or all of the following stages:

Notice of Claim

To bring a wrongful death claim against the NYPD, you must first file a notice of claim with the New York City Comptroller within 90 days of the incident. Therefore, its critical to promptly obtain an NYC Police Brutality Lawyer after your loved one’s death to make sure that all legal rights are preserved. Although some workarounds exist when the notice of claim is filed late, it’s always better to preserve the right to bring all claims by promptly filing a notice of claim.

50h Hearing

After you file a notice of claim, you will attend a 50-h hearing. At that hearing, a lawyer for the City of New York can ask you questions about what happened.

Settlement Negotiations

After the 50h hearing, your lawyer can provide supporting evidence to the City of New York in effort to negotiate a fair settlement offer to resolve the case. If you accept the settlement offer, then the matter is concluded.

Settlement negotiations can occur at any point in a case prior to the jury verdict.

Filing a Lawsuit

If the City is unwilling to pay a fair settlement offer, then you can initiate a lawsuit in court.


After the lawsuit is filed, the discovery process begins. During the discovery process, both sides gather information about what happened. This process can include depositions, subpoenas, and interrogatories.

Legal Motions

Oftentimes, the defendants will file a motion for the case to be dismissed. Specifically, the defendants will argue to the court that insufficient facts exist to prove the claims and therefore the judge should toss the case.


If the judge does not grant the motions to dismiss the case, then the case will proceed to trial. At trial, both sides will present evidence to the jury. Your lawyer will explain to the jury how the defendants are responsible for the claim of wrongful death.

If the jury decides in your favor, then the jury will decide how much compensation you deserve.  

Wrongful Death Police Lawsuit Payouts

The worth of a police misconduct lawsuit can vary widely. However, its safe to say that wrongful death lawsuits can sometimes result in very large, multi-million-dollar jury awards. After all, the damage caused by the police is very high in these cases. The emotional trauma caused by the abrupt loss of life, the lost family income, and funeral expenses can significantly add up.  

Need Help?

If your loved-one was wrongfully killed by the NYPD, contact us for a free consultation. We can review your case to determine the best path forward to get justice.