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Personal Injury While in Prison: You Have Rights, and May be Able to Seek Damages

People placed under arrest, or placed in prison, have rights. Personal injuries that occur in confinement are sometimes the result of overcrowding in prisons, or negligent behavior by authorities. This article looks at how victims may be able to seek legal compensation for such injuries.

Many inmates die in prison in West Virginia each year, according to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union (acluwv.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/overcrowded_and_deadly_final_0.pdf). The majority of these inmates die simply awaiting trial. Some of these deaths could be attributed to ill health, but others occur as a result of injuries sustained by these prisoners while in prison. Prisons in West Virginia suffer the highest death rate in the country, in addition (reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-jails-graphic/).

When a prison inmate sustains injuries, often, a certain amount of negligence by prison staff is to blame. Such negligence can involve the illegal or excessive exercise of force, incorrect administration of medications, neglect in the event of withdrawal symptoms from addictions, or failure to offer protection from harm from fellow inmates.

Examples of personal injury in prison that are the result of negligence by staff

  • Authorities put a person arrested for DWI in prison without first seeking medical clearance by a doctor, and do not place him under the supervision of qualified staff. When the inmate is later found dead in his cell, the prison authorities are found negligent, and liable to pay damages.
  • A person is arrested and placed in a police van in an unsafe manner. He suffers spinal injuries as a result. His family files a lawsuit and wins damages.
  • A prison inmate suffers a stroke, but receives no medical care for hours. The prison authorities are sued, and are found liable to pay damages.
  • A prison inmate is kept in solitary confinement over a period of days, and suffers psychological harm.
  • A prisoner is denied food and water, and undergoes considerable pain and suffering.

When a person is injured or dies in prison, law enforcement officers, immigration and customs agents, prison staff, or the government, may be found responsible.

You may receive compensation for injuries that you suffer in prison

If you have suffered an injury while in prison, or know someone in such condition, you may be able to file a lawsuit seeking compensation. Specific rules and laws govern compensation for injuries that occur while people are in the custody of law enforcement or the prison system. The compensation you seek may be for medical bills, loss of wages or earning capacity, pain and suffering, or the infringement of your civil rights.

It’s important to contact a personal injury lawyer

In some cases, a wrongful conviction, by itself, may amount to an injury, and may be cause for legal action. Prisoners do lose many of their rights when they are imprisoned, but other rights exist. If injuries have occurred in police custody or in prison, it’s important to understand that you have specific rights. While you may sue pro se (without a lawyer), an experienced personal injury lawyer may be in a position to offer guidance, to take up your case, and offer you the best possible shot at compensation or damages.