Bronx Personal Injury & Real Estate Blog

Friday, April 15, 2016

Personal Injury Claims Spike in New York City Prisons

What are the reasons for personal injury claims in prisons?

As calls to close Rikers Island grow louder, the epidemic of violence in New York City prisons continues to be a serious problem. The violent episodes, either between inmates, or between guards and prisoners, has also led to a surge of personal injury claims against the city. While lawsuits also arise from routine slips and falls, transport vehicle accidents, medical malpractice and infections from unsanitary conditions, violence is the leading cause of injury and death among the prison population.

Grounds for a Personal Injury Claim against a Prison

Prison and corrections officials have a legal duty to protect the safety and wellbeing of inmates and a prisoner who has been injured because of a breach of this duty can bring a lawsuit. In the cases involving the City's prisons, this requires filing a Notice of Claim with the city's comptrollers' office within 90 days of the injury. Damages available to an inmate include future medical bills, future lost wages, and pain and suffering. A successful claim depends upon the inmate demonstrating that the facility breached its duty of care, the breach was due to negligence, and the negligence caused the injuries.

Injury Claims against New York City Prisons

According to the New York City Comptroller's Office, the personal injury claims come from across the corrections system, however, most of them are related to incidents at Rikers. System wide, there were over 2,800 personal injury claims for the 2015 fiscal year (ending in June), which was a 27 percent increase over the previous year. Claims have more than doubled since 2010.

The City's Comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, also recently said that the trend for the current fiscal year is continuing in the same direction, as claims for the first six months rose by almost 40 percent over the similar period in 2015. He called the rise in these personal injury claims a "crisis of violence." In addition, these cases are proving to be costly as the city paid out more than $13 million in settlements last year from claims arising from injuries or deaths at its correctional facilities.

While the City has taken steps to address the problems at Rikers, such as hiring additional correction officers, improving training, and reducing the number of inmates in solitary confinement, the number of violent incidents continues to climb. The fact that these cases often involve prison guards make them similar to police misconduct cases. In the end, an inmate who has suffered an injury in a state, city or county facility should consult with a personal injury attorney who has expertise in bringing claims against the prison system.

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