If you’re the victim of excessive force, and you want to hold the person responsible for your injuries accountable for their actions, here’s a list of five things you should do immediately afterwards:
- Get immediate medical attention for your injuries
Before doing anything, the victim of excessive force should have their injuries evaluated by a medical professional. What may seem like a relatively minor injury can develop into something far more serious if not properly treated.
For example, blows or strikes to the head may result in traumatic brain injuries, or TBI, from a subdural hematoma, or a brain bleed where blood pools on the brain increasing cranial pressure which can lead to brain death.
Development of a subdural hematoma is just one example of progressive injuries that can result when a victim of excessive does not promptly seek out treatment.
2. Promptly contact an attorney
Even if you never intend to pursue litigation, immediately contacting an attorney will help you understand your rights and, perhaps more importantly, it will give the attorney an opportunity to preserve and collect evidence that might otherwise be lost if you tried to take matters into your own hands.
Video evidence is a prime example. Many law enforcement agencies have video, either from dash cameras or fixed cameras inside jail or prison facilities, but the video is not maintained forever. Nearly every video system has a fixed window of time that video will exist before its written over.
Generally speaking, your statute of limitations is much longer than the preservation window. Consequently, if you delay contacting an attorney, you could risk jeopardizing the attorney’s ability to get that video evidence.
Similarly, different claims have different limitations period. The longer you wait to contact an attorney, the greater the chance that your claim may be barred by a statute of limitations. The law does not reward those who sit on their rights.
3. Document the incident and identify witnesses
Our memories fade over time, and what you remember immediately following a use of force event may be very different one or two years later. Writing down exactly what you remember as soon as you can will ensure those details are not lost over time. This information will also help your attorney understand what happened.
The same is true of witnesses. Locating people after the passage of two years can be incredibly difficult, especially if the only information you have is a partial name or a nickname. If someone observe the police using excessive force, and you know how get their name and contact information, make you write it down so your attorney can conduct a follow-up interview to help support your claim.
4. Exercise your right to remain silent
Law enforcement agencies are notorious for attempting to cover-up incidents of excessive force by claiming the victim was resisting, obstructing justice, or was somehow at fault for their own injuries. It is not uncommon for law enforcement to provoke a confrontation for the very purpose of masking injuries caused by an earlier incident of excessive force.
Resist the urge to lash out, make rash or angry statements. It won’t undo your injuries, and acting out will only give law enforcement ammunition to argue that you are a trouble-maker and that substantial force was necessary. They will even argue that additional force was necessary to address your yelling or argument because it might incite others nearby to attack the police or jailers.
Don’t fall for this tactic. Remain calm and maintain your silence, except to request medical assistance, until you’re released.
5. Take photographs of any injuries
Visible evidence of excessive force can disappear quickly for two reasons:
1) the body heals quickly; black eyes, knots, swelling, bruising, scrapes, cuts, broken bones, and surgical marks will all look very different two years after the incident force incident. If you don’t document your injuries with photographs, it makes it far more difficult for a jury to visual the extent of the force used against you, and the failure to photograph your injuries gives law enforcement an opportunity to claim that you’re exaggerating or lying about what happened.
2) law enforcement know where to strike; police and jailers take special classes called “defensive tactics” that teach exactly how to hurt someone while leaving as little evidence of the injury as possible. Head strikes are a prime example. The same is true of wrist locks and pressure points. Visible evidence of these injuries can disappear quickly, and sometimes are not visible at all without diagnostic imagining like x-rays or CT scans. This is another reason why you should seek out medical attention immediately after an incident of excessive force.
The use of excessive force is unconstitutional. Any forced used beyond what is reasonably necessary to accomplish the task at hand is excessive force, and if you follow these five steps, your ability to hold those people accountable for using excessive force will increase dramatically.
If you have any questions about excessive force, or what to do following a use of force incident, contact our local injury lawyers at Bryan & Terrill Law, 918-935-2777.