Can You Sue a Prison For Wrongful Death?

The entrance of a jail with people walking away. Soft focus. Visual concept for legal blog on inmate wrongful death claims.

Unfortunately, it is not unusual for inmates to be harmed or even killed while in prison. But just because someone is in prison does not mean they lose all their rights. When a correctional facility fails to meet its constitutional duties, the family of the inmate may be able to sue the prison for inmate wrongful death.

Whether the inmate’s death was due to negligence, poor medical care, or another cause, the family of a deceased inmate may have a claim for inmate wrongful death.

The inmate wrongful death lawyers at The Robenalt Law Firm, Inc., can evaluate your situation, advise you of your family’s rights, and help you pursue compensation for the loss of a loved one.

Common Causes of Wrongful Death in Jail

Jails and correctional facilities are dangerous places. Nonetheless, the Constitution requires that jails, prisons, and other correctional facilities avoid placing inmates at an unnecessary risk of harm. Correctional facilities are required to have reasonable safeguards in place to protect the inmates under their supervision from harm.

When an inmate dies in jail, it is often the result of one of two causes: negligence of the prison staff or inadequate medical care.

Jail Staff Negligence

Even if the prison staff was not directly responsible for the death of your loved one, your loved one’s death could still have been caused by their negligence, indifference, or failure to act.

When a correctional officer knows or reasonably should have known about potential harm to an inmate, they have a legal duty to protect the inmate from harm. For example, prisons are required to protect inmates from injuries or death caused by:

  • Excessive force
  • Inmate violence
  • Improper use of restraints
  • Excessive heat or cold
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Traffic accidents during transport
  • Slips, trips, and falls

When an inmate is killed while in custody, their family may be entitled to compensation through a claim for inmate wrongful death.

Inadequate Medical Care

Because inmates cannot seek medical care and treatment on their own, they are completely reliant upon prison staff for all of their medical needs. When an inmate is denied adequate medical care or receives substandard care that causes their death, their family can file a lawsuit seeking compensation for the inmate’s wrongful death.

Prisons have established nationwide standards to ensure inmates receive appropriate and timely medical care. These standards were approved by the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and the American Correctional Association. Yet prisons and other correctional facilities violate inmate’s rights by failing to provide adequate medical care or denying medical treatment altogether.

Understanding Inmate Wrongful Death Laws

When an inmate dies in prison, their family can file a lawsuit under U.S.C. §1983 for a violation of the inmate’s rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which protects inmates from cruel and unusual punishment. To prevail, the inmate’s family must prove that the prison, jail, or correctional facility acted with “deliberate indifference” to the health or safety of the inmate. This often requires proving that a member of the prison staff knew about the risk of harm to the inmate but failed to address it.

The family members of the deceased inmate can file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for the loss of a loved one. While compensation for the loss of a loved one will not bring them back, it can help the survivors carry on with life and send a message to correctional facilities that this wrongful conduct will not be tolerated.

All across the country, the family of the deceased inmate may be entitled to compensation for:

  • Loss of support
  • Loss of services
  • Loss of society, including loss of companionship, consortium, care, assistance, attention, protection, advice, guidance, counsel, instruction, training, and education suffered by the surviving spouse, dependent children, parents, or next of kin
  • Loss of prospective inheritance
  • The mental anguish suffered by the surviving spouse, dependent children, parents, or next of kin

Contact The Robenalt Law Firm, Inc. for Help with Your Inmate Wrongful Death Claim

Filing a lawsuit for wrongful death in prison is a daunting task. Inmate wrongful death lawsuits are typically filed in federal court, and expert testimony is almost always required. We understand it can be difficult even to consider taking legal action after the tragic loss of a loved one. But keep in mind that in most states time limits on the filing of wrongful death cases and require that wrongful death claims be filed within 2 years from the date of death of your loved one. Some States may require the action to be filed within 1 year from the date of death. If your loved one was killed because of inadequate medical care, the statute of limitations is likely even shorter - in most States those claims have to be filed within 1 year from the date of death.

The Robenalt Law Firm has extensive experience handling inmate wrongful death claims across the country. To put our expertise to work for you, call (216) 223-7535 or contact The Robenalt Law Firm today to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation to discuss your situation and how we can help.

Categories: Wrongful Death