Can You Sue The Police For Not Coming When Called?

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on May 07, 2015 3:59 PM

There's an intruder in your house. Your ex-husband just told you he's coming to kill you. You've been beaten repeatedly by your father. Who can you call to protect you?

The police! Well, not really. You can try calling the police. Whether they'll come to help you or not is another matter. The National Emergency Number Association estimates that an estimated 657,000 calls are made to 911 everyday. If you've ever called for the police after a car accident, you probably know it can take forever for police to arrive. Sometimes, they don't even show up.

If police don't show up to a minor car crash, that's fine and dandy. But, what if the police didn't show up, and your ex-boyfriend shot you in the head?

Can your loved ones sue the police for not showing up to protect you?

No Duty to Protect

Sadly, the answer is no.

Courts have repeatedly ruled that police and the government in general have no duty to protect you from harm.

Warren v. District of Columbia

In Warren v. District of Columbia, two women called the police after hearing intruders attack another woman in their home. Police assured them that help was on the way. Police never showed up. The two women, hearing silence, thought police had arrived, and went downstairs to help their friend. The intruders were still there, and all three women were repeatedly raped and assaulted for hours.

In siding with the government, the court stated that it is a "fundamental principle that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen."

Deshaney v. Winnebago County Social Services Department

In Deshaney v. Winnnebago CTY. Soc. Servs. Dept., plaintiff was a repeatedly beaten and abused by his father to the point that he suffered permanent brain damage. The county department of social services knew about the father's frequent abuse but did not take steps to remove the boy from his home and protect him from the father.

The Supreme Court ruled that even though the government knew about the harm the boy faced, there was no "special relationship" that would impose a duty to protect.

Since the police have no duty to protect you, you have no claim against them for failing to show up when you call. However, even if you can't sue the police for your injury, you may be able to sue your attacker in civil court. An experienced litigation attorney will be able to help.

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