On Monday, news broke that the city of Cleveland will pay $6 million in the wrongful death case of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by police in 2014. “Wrongful death” refers to a lawsuit in which one party seeks damages from another party for causing a person’s death. 

The large sum in the Tamir Rice case follows a long list of similar settlements being paid by cities across the United States. According to The Wall Street Journal, police shootings and misconduct cases have cost the 10 cities with the largest police departments approximately $1.02 billion from 2010 through 2014.

We handle wrongful death cases at my Memphis personal injury firm to help people recover when they’ve lost a loved one and it was someone else’s fault because of negligence or wrongdoing, even if it’s not a case that can or will be handled in court. 

I’m incredibly grateful for the men and women who serve in the Memphis police force and risk their own lives every day. I want to see them well-protected, both financially and under the law. At the same time, there are real problems happening out there, from the shooting of unarmed suspects to militarized raids on the wrong homes. I’ve seen both happen in our own city.

In general, I believe wrongful death suits can be an effective way for victims to pursue justice. Many people are uncomfortable with prosecuting police for misconduct, especially if the act in question appeared to be a horrible mistake. I understand that, but I also understand the desire for justice when you lose a loved one in a way that seems, far too often, preventable.

We can’t just tell our grieving families, “Oops.” As a society, we have to show empathy to victims and their loved ones. We have to have the courage and the character to acknowledge there is real wrong in the world, and we must do everything we can to make it a safer place.

There are many ways to do this, and wrongful death suits are just one tool. Perhaps one day we’ll find a better solution, but for now it’s a legitimate option for many people, and it’s their right under the law.

If you or someone you know needs to speak with a lawyer about a wrongful death suit, please contact our Memphis wrongful death lawyers today. The conversation is free.