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Wrongful death case filed over crash victim's police shooting

Civilians aren't the only ones who can be tried for negligence in an Escambia County civil lawsuit. Governments, government agencies and their employees may be responsible for injuries or deaths.

Wrongful deaths can be caused by someone motivated to kill. More often, defendants harm by accident. The act may not even be a crime, but the defendant's behavior doesn't have to break a law to be reckless or negligent.

A Southern family is suing a police officer, a police chief and the local governments for the shooting death of a family member. The victim, a 24-year-old former student at Florida A&M University, was gunned down by police.

The young man had been with friends that night at a restaurant. The man was driving home alone in the middle of the night, when his car left a rural road and struck an embankment. The injured man had alcohol in his system, but was not intoxicated.

The car accident victim sought help from the nearest homeowner, who mistook the unarmed man for a robber. Three officers responded. One officer Tasered the accident victim, and a second policeman pumped 10 bullets into the young man's body.

The officer who fired the shots was charged with involuntary manslaughter.

An autopsy later revealed that the majority of bullets were shot down at the victim, giving the man's family reason to believe he was kneeling or down when he was killed. A dash-camera on one of the police cars at the scene recorded the incident.

The plaintiff's attorney saw the video and called the shooting a murder.

Liability cases filed against governments or associated entities follow different procedures and rules than other personal injury or wrongful death actions. Some states impose limitations on filing deadlines and set damage caps. Plaintiffs may want to seek an attorney's advice in a timely manner for a case assessment and to understand what compensation is possible.

Source: MSNBC, "Jonathan Ferrell’s autopsy results spark suit" Trymaine Lee, Jan. 14, 2014

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