Can a Prison Be Sued for Wrongful Death?

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When prisons fail to provide the inmates they house with the necessary level of care, it can lead to serious illness or even death. The loved ones of the prisoners who are lost are often left feeling helpless and unsure of where to turn for the help they need.

If you believe your loved one may have suffered a wrongful death in prison, don’t wait to consult with a trusted North Carolina wrongful death attorney.

While nothing can bring your loved one back to you, seeking just compensation can help you and your family on the road toward healing.

You Can Sue for a Wrongful Death in Jail

Just because someone is in jail or prison does not mean they don’t have rights, including the right not to be harmed – or worse – by the negligence of someone who is responsible for their overall care.

Our Constitution requires that jails, prisons, and other detention centers avoid all unnecessary risks in relation to the health and safety of detainees. In fact, these facilities are required to have reasonable safeguards and safety measures in place that are designed to protect the inmates under their supervision.

Common Forms of Negligence in Prisons

When inmates or pre-trial detainees die in jail or prison as a result of negligence, it tends to fall into one of two basic categories.

Negligence on the Part of the Staff

Even if the correction staff at the prison where your loved one was held did not cause their death directly, their negligence, indifference, recklessness, or failure to act could be to blame.

The Supreme Court finds that failing to protect inmates from outside harm that the correctional officer, doctor, or nurse at the facility knew about or should reasonably have known about can lead to liability. Consider the following failures to protect inmates from:

  • Slipping, tripping, and falling
  • Excessive force
  • Violence
  • Improper use of restraints
  • Dangerous traffic accidents during transport
  • Toxic exposure
  • Excessive heat or cold

Inadequate Medical Care

Prisons and jails are similarly responsible for providing inmates with the medical attention they require in a timely manner. As such, all the following can lead to liability:

  • Failure to provide inmates with necessary medical care
  • Stalling the provision of necessary medical care for inmates
  • Failing to protect inmates who are at risk of committing suicide
  • Failing to protect inmates from the dangers of withdrawal – from alcohol or drugs

Deliberate indifference to an inmate’s medical needs can prove deadly, and the prison or jail that perpetrates this indifference can be held accountable.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in NC Against a Prison?

In North Carolina, only the personal representative of the person who loses their life – the decedent – can file a wrongful death claim. This personal representative is generally named in the decedent’s will, but if they have no will or their will does not address this matter, the court can appoint one.

The personal representative, however, files the wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent’s survivors, including:

  • The surviving spouse
  • The surviving children
  • The surviving parents

Seeking Compensation in a Wrongful Death Claim

If you have lost someone to an inmate’s death in prison, the path forward is likely to be exceptionally difficult, but seeking just compensation can provide you with the resources you need to pursue your most complete recovery.

The categories of loss for which you can seek compensation in your wrongful death claim include all the following:

  • The cost of your family member’s funeral and burial
  • The loss of your family member’s future earnings
  • The loss related to a potential inheritance – had your family member lived to life expectancy
  • Your losses related to the love and companionship of your family member
  • Your related emotional pain and suffering

The process is so challenging that working closely with a formidable wrongful death attorney is always well advised.

Discuss Your Concerns with an Experienced North Carolina Wrongful Death Attorney

Losing a loved one to someone else’s negligence is a tragic experience. If your loved one is in prison at the time – and dies as a result of negligence on the part of those entrusted with providing care and supervision – the matter is that much more painful.

The wrongful death attorneys at Horton & Mendez serve Wilmington and Leland, NC. We understand how difficult your situation is and dedicate our practice to helping clients like you obtain the compensation to which they’re entitled and that they need to heal.

Please contact us through our website or call us at 910-415-1088 for more information about what we can do to help you today.

Wrongful Death Case FAQs

How do I know if I have a wrongful death claim?

If your loved one died while incarcerated and you believe negligence is involved, it’s time to consult with a savvy wrongful death attorney who will engage in all the following to help determine if you have a claim:

  • Gathering and carefully analyzing all the related evidence
  • Interviewing eyewitnesses
  • Conferring with expert witnesses

Your attorney will help you better understand the strengths and challenges of your claim.

What should I do if I can’t afford an attorney?

Reputable wrongful death attorneys typically work on contingency, which means yours won’t get paid until your claim settles or receives a court award.

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