This was created by families who lost loved ones by police in San Jose. They made this to ensure the best possible outcome for families who have loved ones shot or killed by police as they have experienced the loss themselves. It is important to follow these 6 steps as much as possible to protect the integrity of the case for your loved one. The link below is to their website for more information.
First and foremost, our condolences on the loss of your loved one. We know this is a tough time in your life and pray this can ease some of your worries. Below is a general timeline of what should happen after your loved one is killed by police and how the process of a wrongful death lawsuit transpires.
Disclaimer: This is not a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney. We recommend reaching out to us for assistance with finding legal representation. This is geared for Minnesota wrongful death cases however, we can help find resources in other states.
Key words and Their Meaning
Statue of Limitations: A statute of limitations is the maximum amount of time allowed for a party to initiate legal proceedings, whether filing criminal charges, or a civil lawsuit. Statutes of limitation are set by federal and state law, and the length of time varies according to the nature of the civil or criminal case.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit: A wrongful death case is a lawsuit brought by a damaged party (example: surviving family members) of a person who has died as the result of intentional homicide, accident, injury, medical malpractice, or negligence of another person and/or entity.
Formal Complaint: The initial filing with the court starting the lawsuit case.
Settlement Conference: In many jurisdictions, a settlement conference is required before any case can go to trial. The settlement conference is shorter and less expensive to conduct than a trial. Accordingly, it can be attractive to all involved to reach a settlement. A judge presides at the conference in their chambers or a private conference room. Settlement conferences are most often utilized in civil matters such as for child custody matters, personal injury lawsuits and contract disputes. They may also be used in criminal matters, though this happens less often.
Alternative Dispute Resolution: The use of methods such as mediation and arbitration to resolve a dispute instead of litigation.
Trustee: An individual person or member of a board given control or powers of administration of property in trust with a legal obligation to administer it solely for the purposes specified.
The Statue of limitations on wrongful death is 3 years in MN. That means in order to file your WRONGFUL death lawsuit you must have the initial complaint filed with to court and properly served within 3 years from the date of your loved one’s death. (Example: Your loved one killed by police 9/7/2019, the lawsuit must be filed by 9/7/2022). If you miss the 3 year window to file, you will not be able to ever go back and file. It is imperative you pay attention to your timing. Please check your state’s Statue of Limitations period.
The first step in initiating the lawsuit is your family appointing a Trustee. This is a person who is generally immediate family members such as spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, or children. Ideally the family could come together and agree on who that would be to minimize any complications to focus on going after the person who killed your loved one. The Trustee will be in-charge of the deceased’s estate and the lawsuit.
Once your loved one is killed finding a trusted lawyer is very important. Your lawyer will be able to counsel you on what you can and can NOT say publicly or privately (Example: interviews/protests/events/conversation) to protect the integrity of your case.
Your lawyers will be able to request and have access to any and all evidence in your case during discovery and legal proceedings. They can answer any questions and be able to provide you any information during the proceedings. This may or may not be made public to protect the case during legal proceedings.
When you hire lawyers, they will get the information needed that will be used to complete your formal wrongful death complaint. Once your complaint is officially filed, the next step in the lawsuit is a period called “discovery”. In discovery, all the evidence requested by the parties will be provided unless there are objections that are made and approved by the court. All of the requested evidence that was properly processed through the court can’t be withheld from your attorneys at that point or it is against the law. Throughout the process there may be settlement discussions including but not limited to a settlement conference. It is up to you as the aggrieved party to accept or decline any offers presented by the opposing side. You can also make a counter offer. You are in charge in your lawsuit. You may ask your counsel/lawyers for advice. However, when it comes to settlement offers it is ultimately up to you to decide what to do. Remember that!
The lawyers will work together to set a schedule for the legal process. During your case, the timeline that was set for the schedule should be followed with minimal exceptions. You should be in consistent communication with your legal counsel. The case usually ranges 1-3 years but that can be longer due to extenuating circumstances. The case may or may not go to trial and depending how any settlement discussions go. There may or may not be a jury depending on what the attorneys opt to do. At the conclusion of your case, you may or may not be awarded financial damages. If you are awarded financial damages we recommend finding a qualified and trustworthy financial adviser/planner to help manage your finances. Receiving a sudden influx of money can be a shock and is difficult to process. Statistics say 70% of people who receive lump sums of money end up spending all or most of it within 3-4 years.
Do NOT TALK TO INVESTIGATORS WITHOUT LEGAL REPRESENTATION!
Be cautious about anything you say and do. The defendants will ultimately be looking for anything to discredit you and your family to benefit them in the lawsuit. Be especially careful when discussing the case. Case details are to be withheld from the public and private audiences until the lawsuit is resolved.
Be mindful of social media. They are watching that as well.
If you are feeling that your lawyers are not a good fit you may fire them and find new legal representation.
Investigators may get a warrant for your phone. Make copies of any and all important information involving your loved one.
Stay in communication with your lawyers and run ideas by them prior to attending events/protests/interviews /conversations.
Get a lawyer who is interested and willing to fight for your case as soon as possible. They will get information NO ONE ELSE has access to.