Taser Injuries and Deaths
Often, personal injury and wrongful death due to police brutality are related directly to the use of tasers. "Taser" is an acronym for "Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle," a reference to juvenile adventure book character Tom Swift. Yet a taser is hardly child's play.
A taser is a weapon that shoots two dart-like electrodes at its victims, then sending electric shocks through wire intended to stun a victim into submission, rendering him helpless and able to be controlled without excessive force.
When the Taser electroshock weapon was introduced into widespread use in the early 1990s, it was touted as a "non-lethal" alternative to firearms, to be used to subdue criminals in situations that did not warrant the use of a deadly weapon. However, though the manufacturer as well as many law enforcement agencies continue to argue that tasers have reduced the need for officers to draw firearms and therefore resulted in fewer deaths, many civil rights groups and concerned citizens point to the more than 200 deaths that have resulted from tasers used by law enforcement officers as evidence that tasers are taking lives.
One of the contributing factors to these taser injuries and taser deaths is the increasing use of tasers to subdue people who are not a serious threat to law enforcement officers. Instead of being used only in situations in which firearms would be used, tasers are more and more frequently used to simply subdue criminals in any kind of arrest situation.
Officers may be subject to laws governing excessive force and police brutality because they sometimes risk lives unnecessarily when using tasers.
Further, the news over the past few years has offered verifiable reports of police officers using tasers on individuals who are handicapped, pregnant, mentally-disabled or non-English-speaking, in addition to those who were simply objecting to an officer's aggression or inability to explain details of an arrest.
The rise of cell phone camera technology and Internet video databases such as YouTube and LiveLeak has given the public more opportunity than ever to capture and display videos of taser incidents that are often astonishingly graphic.
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Excited Delirium: Legitimate Medical Condition or Poor Excuse?
One of the explanations that taser manufacturer Taser International as well as many coroners and law enforcement officials give for the elevated number of deaths connected to use of tasers over the past few years is the presence of a medical condition called "excited delirium." According to some medical experts, this state occurs when an individual gets agitated (as in a high-stress situation of a police chase or arrest) to the point where he or she loses control of body motions and actions. When shocked with the 50,000 k of electrical power that a taser delivers, a person in this high state of agitation can have a heart failure that results in death.
However, critics of this view point to the fact that even though coroners will make reference to it in autopsy reports, "excited delirium" is not technically a medical condition that is recognized by the American Medical Association. Though many individuals do seem to experience an elevated state of excitement during the high-stress situation of an arrest, in fact it would be likely that an individual would have to be significantly overweight as well as suffering from other potential medical conditions for "excited delirium" to be properly identified as the cause of death.
Be warned from the start that taser injury verdicts and taser wrongful death verdicts are not easy to win. Law enforcement officials see tasers as a safe device for applying non-lethal electrical shocks, and it's not easy to convince them otherwise if you or a loved one have suffered injuries as a result of a taser. Just like in police brutality cases, it's often difficult to find witnesses to corroborate a story against law enforcement as well. Settlements with the city involved are often the only possibility for compensation. Injury lawyers can help.
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