While jails may not seem like the typical site of a personal injury claim, recent data suggests otherwise. A surge of violence in New York City jails, for example, has created an influx of personal injury claims in the past year.
At the end of the 2015 fiscal year, New York’s Riker’s jail system alone accounted for 2,846 personal injury claims. This figure was a 27 increase over the previous year’s injury claims. It may come as a surprise that inmates are allowed to sue for injuries while incarcerated in jail or prison, but the law does provide remedies through both state and federal courts.
Suing Under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act
One of the legal avenues by which an inmate can sue for personal injuries is through Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act. This section permits civilians (the definition of civilians includes inmates) to sue for injuries or other harms that are caused to their person by state and local government agents.
Inmates who are victims of brutality by police and prison guards could file a personal injury claim to recover damages for the harms suffered. Inmates are given the right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, so excessive violence inflicted against an inmate may be used to show the inmate’s Eighth Amendment rights were violated. Similarly, if an inmate was unreasonably searched, seized or detained, an Alabama personal injury lawyer could prove that the inmate’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated as well.
It is important to note, however, that filing a claim under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act hinges on whether the injuries were caused by state and local government officials. Inmates may not file a lawsuit under this standard if the injuries were caused by the federal government or private parties.
Case law also gives inmates the opportunity to sue based on the 1971 case of Bivens v. Six Unkown Fed. Narcotics Agents. Similar to Section 1983 lawsuits, inmates must show that a violation of constitutional rights and federal law caused an injury.
The Supreme Court clarified in recent years that this right extends only to federal government employees and federal government entities. As such, this case precedent could not be used to file suit against private prisons or their employees.
Suing Under Alabama Tort Law
If neither of the previous standards can be met, injured inmates may be able to sue based on Alabama’s tort and personal injury laws. Negligence and battery standards are used to sue private prisons in much the same way private businesses are sued. Inmates who have been injured by a private prison and a private prison employee in Alabama need the legal counsel of an Alabama injury attorney to determine whether there is a strong case for a personal injury lawsuit.
Noel B. Leonard represents personal injury victims in the state of Alabama from his Foley office. Additionally, Noel serves the residents of Mobile, Baldwin, and Escambia Counties. If you or a loved one has been injured in prison, contact injury attorney Noel B. Leonard or call 251-943-8638 to determine how to proceed with your Alabama injury case.