When a person is incarcerated, the State or prison takes responsibility for some aspects of the prisoner’s well-being. Though prison accidents are not always preventable, and medical care in prison is not always a guarantee of ongoing good health, the courts recognize that there are certain expectations of care in these situations. When the State or prison fails to meet these expectations, they may be held liable.
In New York State and certain other jurisdictions, these liabilities can extend to mental health care as well. Families have been compensated when prisoners commit suicide while incarcerated, particularly if there is a history of depression and threats of self-harm, or if the incarcerated has requested assistance. The prison must take these threats and requests seriously.
When a person dies while in custody, the family may be able to file a wrongful death case against whatever entity was responsible for the individual at that time. In many cases this is the prison, but in some circumstances a hospital or mental health facility might be at fault. Examples of wrongful death cases include inmates who have died from opiate withdrawals, or who have been prevented from properly managing diabetes and other health conditions.
Wrongful death cases do not require an intent to cause harm. Proving negligence is often sufficient to establish a wrongful death case, though willful intent can make these cases even easier to prove. In the case of prisons and mental health facilities, simply demonstrating the facility did not fulfill legal requirements or reasonable expectations of care can be sufficient.
If someone you love died while under the care of another, be it a hospital, mental health facility, or prison, determining whether or not the facility was negligent can be difficult. Please, reach out to an experienced attorney who can evaluate your case and help you decide how to proceed.