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Wrongful Death in Police Custody

Indianapolis Lawyers for Wrongful Death and Serious Personal Injury

Serious injury and death can occur as the result of the mistreatment or neglect of individuals held in Indiana police or sheriff’s department custody and jail or those participating in Community Corrections programs. When this occurs, the injured or the families of the deceased have a right to compensation for their losses. At Keffer Hirschauer LLP, you’ll find experienced Indiana lawyers for wrongful death or serious personal injury cases involving inmates and Community Corrections participants.

Lawyers for Wrongful Death or Serious Injury in Jail or Community Corrections

The Indianapolis attorneys of Keffer Hirschauer LLP are experienced in criminal defense and civil rights law. We are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about fighting for our clients’ civil rights at various stages of the legal process, from investigation to incarceration to probation.

Inmates and others at various stages of adjudication or punishment under the criminal justice system sometimes have limited civil rights. However, some rights remain regardless of incarceration or criminal convictions. The right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States is one of these. In some cases when an inmate is injured in jail or denied medical treatment in jail or a Community Corrections program, other civil rights protections and state laws might apply as well. The same is true in incidents involving Community Corrections or inmate deaths in Indiana.

However, a Community Corrections or jail negligence lawsuit or mistreatment case can be difficult to prove in court. It is important to work with knowledgeable Indiana lawyers for wrongful death and serious injuries in these cases as soon as possible to gain the best footing early in your case. The civil rights attorneys of Keffer Hirschauer LLP are here for you and your family, ready and eager to help.

Civil Rights of Inmates and Community Corrections Participants

The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

In cases of an inmate injured in jail, a resulting jail negligence lawsuit or legal action for mistreatment is often based on the infringement of civil rights provided under the Eighth Amendment. Individuals held or incarcerated for a criminal offense are protected from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. While some forms of punishment and living conditions are accepted as reasonable punishment for criminal acts, there are limits to what people can be subjected to by correctional facilities, officers, and agents. Excessive force and brutality are both considered forms of cruel and unusual punishment.

Overpopulation of correctional facilities is one example of an unacceptable condition that could lead to a jail negligence lawsuit. In Brown v. Plata, the Supreme Court of the United States found that prison overcrowding led to the inadequate medical care of inmates and determined that receiving inadequate care or being denied medical treatment in jail or prison constitutes a violation of civil rights under the Eighth Amendment.

Estelle v. Gamble is another Supreme Court case in which the Court decided that neglect of a prisoner’s serious medical needs constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. But neglect in medical treatment is not the only form of abuse that can lead to a jail neglect lawsuit. Other conditions that might violate Eighth Amendment rights include unsafe living conditions, lack of appropriate food or hygiene, and lack of proper security or protection.

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects Americans from unlawful or unreasonable search, seizure, and detention. When a person is injured or killed in the course of an unlawful search, seizure, or detention, this is a violation of civil rights. However, the application of the Fourth Amendment to people in various stages of the criminal justice system, like parolees and probationers, has been debated by courts. Experienced lawyers for wrongful death and serious injury can help determine if a person’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated.

The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from depriving individuals of their rights to life, liberty, and property without due process of law. The Amendment also requires states to provide equal protection under the law to all people, regardless of race, sex, or other factors. Infringement of these rights can be applicable in some cases of mistreatment and neglect in custody or Community Corrections programs.

Statutory Rights of Inmates and Community Corrections Participants

Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 allows individuals to sue local or state entities for injuries or death caused by neglect or mistreatment. Individuals in police custody, inmates, and Community Corrections participants retain this right to sue, even if they have been convicted of a crime. Indiana state tort laws also protect the rights of citizens to file civil actions against government entities, such as jails or police departments, for mistreatment or neglect that results in serious injury or death.

Keffer Hirschauer LLP’s Indianapolis lawyers for wrongful death and serious injury can evaluate the details of your specific situation and help determine which, if any, of your or your loved one’s rights have been violated and if there are grounds for a jail negligence lawsuit or other legal actions for neglect, abuse, or mistreatment.

Causes of Injuries in Jail or Community Corrections

Serious injuries that merit a jail negligence lawsuit or other legal action for wrongdoing can result from a number of incidents. Sometimes an inmate injured in jail or a Community Corrections program is harmed by the direct actions of another person, such as a corrections officer or another inmate, while other scenarios involve the indirect impacts of unsuitable conditions or neglect. Causes of serious injuries in jail or Community Corrections programs can include:

  • Transportation accidents or crashes
  • Assault by fellow inmates or Community Corrections participants
  • Assault, abuse, or neglect by jail or Community Corrections personnel
  • Slip-and-fall accidents
  • Riots
  • Insufficient care or denial of medical treatment for serious medical conditions
  • Overcrowding
  • Failure to maintain a sanitary environment
  • Failure to maintain a safe environment

These incidents and circumstances can result in a variety of serious injuries, such as the following:

  • Head injury and traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Traumatic bodily injury
  • Suffocation or asphyxiation
  • Infection or illness
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Drug overdose

What Happens When a Person Dies in Custody or a Community Corrections Program

Community Corrections or inmate deaths in Indiana can result from the incidents and causes listed above or something else altogether. Jail, Community Corrections, and other custodial agents and officers have a responsibility to protect the individuals under their supervision. When the health or safety of a person is compromised under this government responsibility, experienced lawyers in wrongful death based on civil rights violations can help you pursue a jail negligence lawsuit or legal claim for mistreatment.

Government officials also have a responsibility to follow appropriate procedures after the death of an inmate or Community Corrections participant. The National Commission on Correctional Health Care establishes standards of care and develops position statements regarding the health care and medical treatment of incarcerated individuals.

The Commission has set forth the following guidelines regarding what happens when a person dies in custody of police or government entities:

  • Responsible parties should review the appropriateness of the care received
  • Necessary areas of improvement should be identified
  • A “responsible health authority” must maintain a log with the patient’s personal information, information from the review conducted, details regarding the cause and manner of death, and any other relevant findings
  • A corrective follow up should occur regarding any actions that need to be corrected

The records created and kept by medical providers and other officials and authorities after inmate deaths in Indiana can become important evidence in a jail negligence lawsuit or other legal actions for mistreatment or abuse of individuals under government custody or supervision. The Indiana lawyers for wrongful death and serious injury from Keffer Hirschauer LLP know how to collect and preserve relevant records in these cases and use that information to establish and support allegations of neglect or abuse.

Compensation for Serious Injury or Death in Jail or Community Corrections

The losses sustained by an inmate injured in jail or while participating in a Community Corrections program often differ from the usual damages in personal injury cases. The same is true, to an extent, for losses sustained by families as a result of inmate deaths in Indiana.

In traditional personal injury and wrongful death cases, plaintiffs are awarded damages, or compensation, for medical expenses, loss of income, and pain and suffering. In cases in which a person is incarcerated at the time of injury or death, medical costs will generally be paid by the responsible agency. Loss of current income is also typically not an issue in these cases.

However, inmates, Community Corrections participants, and their families are still entitled to recover money damages when serious injuries or death are caused by neglect or mistreatment on the part of government actors. Items that can be considered in the calculation of damages for mistreatment in government corrections programs or a jail negligence lawsuit include future medical expenses, future loss of income, compensation for pain and suffering, and, in some cases, punitive damages.

You Need Experienced Lawyers for Wrongful Death and Serious Injury Cases

When serious injuries or deaths occur as the result of neglect or mistreatment in jail or Community Corrections programs, the injured parties deserve compensation under the law. Unfortunately, these claims can be extremely difficult to prove.

The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), enacted in 1996, prohibits federal lawsuits under Section 1983 of the Constitution unless all “administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” This effectively allows correctional institutions to create administrative policies and procedures for complaints that are difficult to navigate, leading many potential future plaintiffs to give up on the process and forfeit their right to a federal lawsuit.

Additionally, state and federal employees are granted qualified immunity from claims of wrongdoing in the course of their work, unless a violation of a statutory or constitutional right can be proven. Establishing these violations can be difficult and requires the knowledge of experienced Indiana lawyers for wrongful death and serious injury.

If you were seriously injured as a result of abuse or neglect such as being denied medical treatment in jail or a Community Corrections program in Indiana, you deserve compensation. If your loved one died as a result of mistreatment or neglect while in jail or under the supervision of a Community Corrections program, you deserve compensation. Getting the compensation you need and deserve begins with choosing the right legal partners to lead the fight.

Keffer Hirschauer’s Indianapolis lawyers for wrongful death and serious injury will put our knowledge and experience to work to recover monetary damages for you and your family. Contact Keffer Hirschauer LLP today by calling (317) 648-9560 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.