Steps to Take If You Are the Victim of Police Brutality
One of the most challenging aspects of police brutality cases is proving what happened. We’re raised to believe that police are trustworthy and honest protectors of public safety. Judges and juries are likely to believe a police officer over a criminal defendant. In addition, the police are likely to argue that your injuries are your own fault – you were resisting arrest, were a threat to other people, or a danger to the police themselves. As a result, the steps you take after being victimized by the police are absolutely critical.
Philadelphia police brutality attorney Lauren Wimmer has the knowledge and experience to help you get justice. She understands the challenges you face and what it takes to build a successful case. If you’ve been injured by the police, contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 or online in order to schedule a free consultation.
You Have Rights
The first thing you need to understand is that you have rights, even when being arrested or detained by the police. While the police are authorized to use “reasonable” force to make an arrest in order to protect themselves and others, they are not entitled to use excessive force. What is considered reasonable or excessive force will vary according to the facts and circumstances of each case. However, if you were beaten or otherwise severely injured even though you weren’t resisting arrest, you are likely the victim of excessive force.
If you are the victim of police brutality, you have a civil claim against the police for your injuries under the constitution and federal law (42 U.S.C. 1983). Often referred to as a “Section 1983 claim,” the law gives you the right to sue the police for money damages. This means that you can seek a judgment for your medical bills, any other economic losses such as lost wages, and your pain and suffering.
Unfortunately, it can be very difficult for a non-lawyer to pursue a claim for police brutality. If you’ve been injured by the police, we recommend that you speak with Philadelphia police brutality attorney as soon as possible.
Seek Medical Treatment
It may seem obvious, but the first thing you should do is seek medical treatment for your injuries. Your health is your most important asset. Failing to get the necessary medical treatment can result in permanent injuries, disability, and other health complications.
Getting medical treatment is more complicated if you are in jail or prison, but you have a constitutional right to receive necessary medical care when in police custody. If you have been injured, you should ask to see a doctor. Make a note of the date and time. In addition, be aware that you may need to make multiple requests, and that you should note the date and time of each request. Their failure to provide timely medical care may give rise to an additional Section 1983 claim, thus entitling you to additional damages.
If you are not in custody, you should immediately go to the emergency room. In addition, you should be sure to go to any follow-up appointments that are recommended in order to receive full treatment for your injuries.
Document Your Injuries
The easiest thing you can do is take pictures of your injuries. Using your smartphone, take them from multiple angles and in different lighting. The more pictures, the better – you don’t want to later discover that the pictures do not show the severity of your injuries. If necessary, get someone to help you take the pictures.
While seeking medical treatment is inherently important for your health, it is also an important step in documenting your injuries in the event that you later make a claim. You want to be sure to collect the following information:
- A full diagnosis of your injuries and their cause
- The recommended treatment plan
- Any limitations that you are experiencing (pain, mobility) that are caused by your injuries
All of this information should be contained in the medical reports, and you want to be sure that you keep a copy of all reports and documentation. If the reports are missing any of this information, ask that they provide updated documentation that reflects all of these details. In addition, you want to be sure you keep copies of the following:
- All medical bills or invoices, even if paid by insurance
- A record of any out-of-pocket treatment expenses
- Any correspondence received from your doctor or other medical professionals
- A record of any prescribed medications
This documentation will help establish the severity of your injuries and overcome any presumption or argument that you are simply exaggerating.
You also want to be sure to gather all of the pertinent details surrounding the incident. The facts are critical in police brutality cases, but memories fade over time. As a result, you want to make sure to write down and keep safe the following information:
- The name, badge number, and police department of the officers involved, including those who may have only witnessed the incident
- The name and contact information of any witnesses
- The date, time, and location of the incident
- A detailed explanation of the events leading up to, during, and immediately after the incident
The police will likely have a very different account of what happened, so it’s important to have a very clear and accurate record of the facts.
Evidence that May Be Under the Control of the Police
In addition to the documentation we’ve discussed thus far, there may also be evidence that helps your case in the possession of the police. This can include evidence such as the following:
- Witness statements provided to the police
- Reports filed by the officers regarding the incident
- Video surveillance footage: police cruiser cameras, body cameras, video footage from the station, or even security cameras where the incident occurred
Unfortunately, this kind of evidence is not under your control and is therefore liable to be destroyed or altered. This is one of the reasons why you should talk to a Philadelphia police brutality lawyer right away – they can take steps to get access to this evidence to ensure that it is preserved in your case.
Contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law if You’re a Victim of Police Brutality
You shouldn’t have to suffer in silence just because the police have the authority of law on their side. Philadelphia police brutality lawyer Lauren Wimmer can help you hold them liable so that you can get justice. If you’re a victim of police brutality, contact us today to schedule a free consultation – online or by phone at 215-712-1212.