According to a report from CBS News, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) will pay approximately $7 million to resolve a wrongful death lawsuit related to a fatal 2020 shooting. The settlement was reached on behalf of the family of Erik Salgado—a man who was tragically shot and killed by a CHP officer in Oakland. Here, our Stockton wrongful death lawyer explains what we know about the case and highlights the key things families need to know about their rights under state law.
The Incident: Man Shot and Killed By CHP After Vehicle Reported Stolen
Tragically, a man named Erik Salgado was fatally shot by California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers in Oakland on June 6, 2020. Notably, CHP Officers fired at Mr. Salgado at least 18 times. The vehicle that he was driving had been reported stolen and his pregnant girlfriend, Brieanna Colombo, was a passenger. Ms. Colombo was hurt in the incident.
The CHP stated that Mr. Salgado unlawfully tried to escape a traffic stop by ramming patrol cars with his vehicle. However, Mr. Salgado’s family’s legal advocates argued that no officers were directly in the vehicle’s path. Further, they state that neither Mr. Salgado nor Ms. Colombo were armed. A claim was filed on the grounds that the CHP officers were excessive.
The Wrongful Death Settlement: $7 Million to the Surviving Family Members
In order to resolve the wrongful death lawsuit—which was filed on the grounds of excessive force/police brutality—the CHP has agreed to pay $7 million to the family members of Mr. Salgado’s family. The case may still be submitted for criminal prosecution by the family. As part of the civil rights wrongful death settlement, neither the CHP nor any other California state agency admitted any wrongdoing. Still, the settlement will resolve the civil legal case.
Law Enforcement Agencies May Be Held Accountable through a Civil Rights Claim
Law enforcement agencies are crucial for maintaining public safety. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility. When police officers abuse their power or act otherwise negligently, accountability is a must. Offending officers and their agencies (employers) should be held to account for harm caused by excessive force. One way to ensure accountability is through a civil rights claim, allowing victims or their families to seek justice and compensation for unlawful actions by law enforcement. Under federal law (42 U.S. Code § 1983), an injured victim or their family members of a person who was killed can file a police brutality claim. Also known as a Section 1983 lawsuit, these are civil claims. Here are key things to understand about Section 1983 claims:
- The Parties (Plaintiff/Defendant(s)): The lawsuit can be filed against individuals working for state or local governmental agencies, under the color of law. Police officers are included. The plaintiff in a Section 1983 lawsuit can be the victim or, in the case of a wrongful death claim, or the surviving family members of the victim.
- The Basis of the Claim: These claims should be based on allegations that the plaintiff’s constitutional rights have been violated. One of the most notable examples is excessive force (police brutality). Excessive force by police officers can lead to severe injuries or even fatalities.
- Section 1983 Damages: Victims may seek compensatory damages for physical, emotional, and financial harm. In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded to punish the wrongdoer and deter future misconduct. Beyond that, Section 1983 sometimes allows prevailing plaintiffs to recover attorney fees.
What to Know About Wrongful Death Claims Eligibility in California
The untimely death of a person impacts an enormous number of people. However, unfortunately, not every person in California has rights under the state’s wrongful death laws. Here is an overview of who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in California:
- Spouses and Domestic Partners: The surviving spouse or domestic partner of the deceased person has the primary right to file a wrongful death claim.
- Children: The biological or adopted children of the deceased can file a claim. If there are no surviving children, the grandchildren of the deceased’s predeceased children can file.
- Parents and Siblings: If there is no surviving spouse or children, the parents or siblings of the deceased may be eligible to bring a wrongful death action.
- Dependent Minors: Minors who resided with the deceased for at least 180 days prior to the death and were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their financial support.
- Other Heirs: Other individuals who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession may also be eligible, if there are no other eligible claimants.
Wrongful death laws are complicated. If you are not sure who should take the initiative to file a legal claim in California, you are certainly not alone. Redkey Gordon Law Corp is available to help. Consult with a top-tier Stockton, CA wrongful death lawyer for a free, strictly confidential consultation.
What is the Statute of Limitations for a California Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit in California is generally two years from the date of the deceased person’s death. The eligible surviving family members or representatives usually have two years to file a lawsuit against the responsible party or parties. If a lawsuit is not filed within this two-year period, the claim may be barred, and the right to legal recourse and compensation may be lost. However, the statute of limitations is reduced if the defendant is a government entity—including a state or local law enforcement agency. You may have as little as 180 days to initiate your claim.
Contact Our Stockton Wrongful Death Attorney Today
At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockon wrongful death lawyers are compassionate advocates for grieving families. If your loved one was killed as the result of excessive force by local or state police, we are a legal resource. Contact us today for your free, no commitment case review. From our Stockton law office, we are well-positioned to handle wrongful death claims in San Joaquin County and throughout the region, including in Lodi, Manteca, Sacramento, and Sutter Creek.