If you are injured while in jail or prison you might wonder if you are able to sue for these injuries. Both state and federal courts do have remedies for these injuries, but depending on the cause of the injury you could be restricted to certain legal routes. It is important that you know what these routes are and how they can help you with your lawsuit.
Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act states that any citizen including inmates is able to sue for any harm or injuries caused by local government or state agents. These lawsuits are generally used by people who are recovering from injuries as a result of police brutality. However, it is not hard to see how it could be used to impose a liability for injuries on local jails or state prisons.
Many of the injuries sustained by people in prison fall under a violation of the Eighth Amendment which is the right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment. If you are injured as a result of an unreasonable search, detention or seizure, you may also be covered by the Fourth Amendment theory. If you choose to use Section 1983 for your lawsuit, you can sue in federal or start court, but you can only sue for injuries caused by the local or state government. Any injuries by private parties or the federal government will not be covered.
If you are injuries in a federal detention facility or prison, you could be covered by a Bivens action. This kind of lawsuit is very similar to the Section 1983 as they will require a violation of a constitutional right or a federal law which caused your injury. A problem with using Bivens action is that the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 clarified that is right can only be used to sue the federal government entity and the employees. If you were in a private prison, you will not be able to sue for injuries with this action.
State Tort Claims
If you are unable to use a Section 12983 or Bivens claim, you could try to sue for compensation under the state tort law. The theory of negligence and battery can be used against a private prison in the same way that they are used against any other private business. It is recommended that you speak with your attorney about this as they will need to help you determine which parties can be held liable for your injuries.
It is important to note that in any case which involves a public official as the cause of your injury, you will have to overcome qualified immunity. Simple neglect by a government prison official may not be seen as enough to make them liable for your injuries.
While it is possible for an inmate to sue for injuries sustained while in jail or prison, these cases are complicated. It is recommended that you hire an attorney who has experience with these types of cases to help you.