If you did not get medical care in prison or jail, you may have a case if the failure to provide medical care resulted in serious injury. If you are a family member of someone who died in prison or jail, you may have a wrongful death claim. The laws that apply depend on the facts of the case.
Failure to Provide Medical Care Violates an Inmate’s Constitutional Rights
The United States Supreme Court recognized the right to adequate medical care for inmates in a prison or otherwise incarcerated in the case Estelle v. Gamble (1976) 429 U.S. 97.
In Gamble, the prisoner was injured when a 600-pound bale of cotton fell on him. Although the inmate got some medical help, it was not adequate, and even though he was in pain, prison officials made him work and then punished him when his injury prevented him from performing his duties.
The Supreme Court decided that the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution applies when prison officials manifest “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners.” This means that two of the requirements necessary for an Eighth Amendment claim are:
- “Deliberate indifference” – intentionally failing to provide medical care that would prevent suffering; and
- “Serious medical needs” – a serious injury or illness, including a serious physical health condition, dental condition, mental health condition (particularly to prevent inmate suicide), a medical emergency, or an expected future medical problem.
Some examples of failure to provide medical care giving rise to an Eighth Amendment claim include the following:
- Withholding medical care on purpose
- Delaying treatment with the intent to harm the inmate
- Knowingly interfering with treatment (not carrying out medical orders).
An Inmate Can Sue for Negligent Failure to Provide Medical Care
Failure to provide an inmate with reasonable and adequate medical care is negligent, and the inmate (or his family in the case of a wrongful death) has the right to sue for compensation. For a negligence claim, there has to be a breach of a duty of care that leads to harm. Officials in charge of prisons, jails and work-release programs have a special duty of care to those in its custody. This duty includes the duty to provide adequate medical care.
I have represented people who suffered serious harm in cases involving prisons, jails and work-release programs. In one case, I and others on the litigation team won $1.9 million for a man in a work-release program who was found comatose in his dorm-style room after being neglected by workhouse officers for up to three days. As a result, he sustained severe memory loss and nerve damage.
If you or a loved one was injured in prison, jail or while otherwise incarcerated, contact me for a free consultation at 888-377-8900 (toll free) or submit the free consultation form about an injury or wrongful death lawsuit.