Our freedom of speech and freedom to peaceably assemble are clearly outlined in the First Amendment, and they are two rights we, as Americans, hold dear. Protests are certainly nothing new, but the sheer volume of protests and their frequency is unparalleled compared to recent years, and while over 96 percent of the protests that took place in 2020 were peaceful, there have been some cases of people getting hurt, either through violence or by accident. Our personal injury attorneys in Raleigh are outlining what you should do if you or someone you love was injured during a protest.
Types of Injuries at Protests and Their Causes
First, let’s look at how and why people are getting hurt at protests and large gatherings;
- Vehicle collisions with pedestrians, either unintentionally due to roads not being blocked or with malicious intent;
- Falls which can be caused by pushing or trampling when the protest goes from peaceful to violent, or by tripping and falling due to unsafe roads, sidewalks, and infrastructure issues.
- Respiratory problems caused by smoke or tear gas;
- Eye injury from pepper spray, tear gas, or rubber bullets;
- Trauma to the head or extremities, including bruising, concussion, and broken bones from another protestor, law enforcement officer, or a counter-protestor;
Who Can Be Held Liable for Injuries During a Protest?
If you are hurt and have medical bills, have lost wages, or have long-term health issues, let’s consider who is liable for your injuries.
The protest organizer or organization is responsible for having permits, blocking streets, and, in general, creating as safe an environment as possible. If you or someone you love are injured by being hit by a car because a road wasn’t properly blocked off or a platform wasn’t built properly and collapses, or because they didn’t hire security, the organization can be liable for any injuries that happen.
While police are responsible for ensuring public safety and can step in if people are breaking the law, they are held to a standard of behavior. Firing rubber bullets into a peaceful crowd or throwing cans of tear gas without proper cause or without following proper protocol is not legal, and again, they are liable for injuries that occur if what they are doing falls outside legal boundaries.
While most people protesting are there to peaceably assemble while getting their voices heard, there are some people who are there to cause trouble. Fights may break out, especially if there are counter protestors, and what started as a peaceful gathering becomes violent. If someone intentionally injures someone else or injures someone while committing an illegal act, like smashing a window, they can be held liable both in criminal and civil court.
What to Do If You’re Injured at a Protest
If you are injured, it’s important to follow these steps in order to hold the person responsible accountable.
Seek Medical Treatment
If you are seriously injured, make sure you seek medical immediately. Lacerations, head trauma, and respiratory issues should be treated as soon as possible to prevent long-term damage.
Record Evidence of an Injury
Keep your cell phone charged and close by so if you see someone doing something illegal or improper, you have evidence of wrongdoing. If you need a record for a court case, video evidence is powerful.
Get the Witnesses
If you or a loved one is injured, and you’re capable of speaking to those around you who saw what happened, get their contact information. Their testimony can also help your case.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If you’ve been injured or have long-term suffering through no fault of your own due to incidents that took place during a protest, it’s important to consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as you’re physically and mentally able.
Schedule a Consultation with Our Personal Injury Attorneys in Raleigh
At Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler, & Thomas, LLP, we believe in your right to peacefully protest. If you have been injured through no fault of your own, we want to help you get the compensation you deserve. Schedule a consultation today by calling us at (919) 615-2473 or filling out our form below.