Request your Free Consultation
All inmates and detainees in United States correctional facilities – whether in federal penitentiaries, state prisons, or county jails – have a constitutionally guaranteed right to “adequate medical care.” In 1976, the United States Supreme Court determined that under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution protections from “cruel and unusual punishment,” all inmates must be provided health care consistent with “modern medical science.”
In the absence of widespread federal regulation on the subject, many correctional facilities and courts have looked to general practices and standards provided by non-governmental institutions, like the American Bar Association and National Commission on Correctional Healthcare, for guidance on “adequate health care.” The most widely used standards, the American Bar Association (ABA) Criminal Justice Standards on Treatment of Prisoners, provide a wide range of protocols, in accordance with the “adequate health care” standard, for all aspects of correctional care and administration.
Included within these standards is a requirement that all prisoners be provided preventive, routine, urgent, and emergency care in a timely manner, consistent with community healthcare standards. On emergency care specifically, correctional facilities are required to have on-site emergency care facilities for both medical and mental health or be capable of transferring inmates to off-site emergency treatment facilities, such as hospitals. In the event of an off-site transfer, correctional facilities are also required to have vehicles equipped with emergency medical equipment.
Examples of illnesses and injuries necessitating emergency medical care include:
The ABA standards explicitly forbid non-medical considerations such as cost and convenience in the context of inmate health and emergency care. Yet, many facilities continually make health care judgments and decisions based on those criteria, at the expense of inmates with serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses and injuries. This is especially true in correctional facilities who outsource their medical care responsibilities to for-profit correctional healthcare companies, who have an incentive to reduce costs in favor of profit.
Despite the constitutional guarantees and ABA standards, emergency medical care in correctional facilities throughout the United States is often inadequate and, in many instances, results in serious and preventable injuries and/or death. The provision of inadequate emergency medical care is considered a violation of inmate’s Eighth Amendment rights and is classified as negligence, deliberate indifference, or medical malpractice – depending upon the individual circumstances of each claim – under the law.
As a result, correctional facilities and private correctional healthcare companies have been the subject of thousands of lawsuits related to serious preventable injuries and death suffered by inmates who received inadequate emergency medical care. In fact, all correctional facilities and healthcare providers who provide their inmates with inadequate emergency medical care are liable for damages suffered by those individuals; however, the strength and probability of success in these lawsuits is primarily determined by the severity of injuries suffered and the inadequacies of the care provided.
Because of the challenges and inherent biases associated with correctional negligence litigation, it is highly recommended that inmates (or their families) who believe they’ve suffered preventable injury or death as a result of inadequate emergency medical care consult with a prison medical malpractice attorney to determine the actionability of their claim and seek legal guidance. We also represent those who have been refused treatment for addiction, refused treatment of withdrawal, or were refused treatment altogether.
The team of experienced trial attorneys at Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC has successfully litigated claims such as these against correctional facilities and healthcare providers, for victims in all 50 states of the United States. Our claims have resulted in many multi-million-dollar awards and consistently sent a message to correctional facilities and their healthcare providers that they’ll be held responsible for their actions.
If someone you know suffered serious injury or death resulting from inadequate emergency medical care while in prison or jail, we encourage you to contact Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC at (503) 226-6361 or fill out our online intake form for your free case evaluation today.