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- Gabriel V.

New Jersey Prisoner Wrongful Death Lawyer

Ambulance Tara Breslow-Testa and Associates helps grieving family members hold government officials and other parties accountable for causing serious injuries or death to prisoners. Call (732) 784-2880 or contact us online to discuss your legal options if your loved one was killed in prison. Below, we answer important questions regarding prisoner wrongful death cases in New Jersey.

Information Center
  1. What Are Some Examples Of Wrongful Death In Prison?
  2. Who Do I Sue For Wrongful Death?
  3. How Does A Wrongful Death Lawsuit Work In New Jersey?
  4. What Laws Apply To Wrongful Death?
  5. Who Files A New Jersey Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
  6. What Compensation Can I Receive In A New Jersey Prisoner Wrongful Death Claim?
  7. Which Family Members Receive Compensation?
  8. Can I File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit If My Loved One Killed Themself?
  9. Can I Sue The Prison For Failing To Prevent A Violent Attack?
  10. What Evidence Do I Need For A New Jersey Wrongful Death Case?
  11. Will This Case Go To Trial?
  12. Can I Bring A Wrongful Death Lawsuit If My Loved One Was Killed While Awaiting Trial?
  13. Seasoned New Jersey Prisoner Wrongful Death Lawyer
What Are Some Examples Of Wrongful Death In Prison?

Roughly 4,400 inmates die in prison each year. This is a serious crisis facing our prisons, but government officials have made no attempt at serious prison reform. Instead, government officials deny there is a problem or sweep them under the rug. Even when they admit responsibility for an inmate’s death, officials take no steps to improve prison safety.

There are many examples of wrongful death. But let’s look at a few.

Violent Attacks In State Or Federal Prison

A prisoner might be killed in a violent attack by:

  • A fellow inmate
  • A security guard
  • A visitor

Unfortunately, violent attacks are common. About 1 in 5 prisoners claim they have been assaulted by another jail inmate or by a guard.

Negligent Supervision

The jail must provide security to prevent attacks. For example, if they knew prisoners were targeting your loved one, they should have separated them or moved your loved one. Officials can not simply close their eyes to a real threat of violence.

Prison officials often claim they have done nothing wrong and could not have prevented a violent attack. And sometimes that’s true. But we need to fully understand what they knew in the lead-up to the violent attack on your family member in prison.

Premises Liability

A prisoner can die due to some hazard in the prison. For example, they might be electrocuted or slip and fall. The prison must provide a reasonably safe environment for prisoners.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Your loved one might have died in a crash while being moved between prisons or transported to court. If the driver did not use reasonable care, they may be responsible for your loved one’s death.

Medical Malpractice

The prison has a duty to provide medical care to inmates. You might sue the prison if your loved one died because they did not receive proper care.

Medical malpractice laws also apply to suicide. If your loved one suffered from a mental health disorder, the prison should have treated it. They also should have taken steps to prevent suicide, such as removing anything from a cell that could be used as a weapon. Unfortunately, prison officials are often deliberately indifferent to the risk of suicide.

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Who Do I Sue For Wrongful Death?

It depends on who is at fault for the death. Here are some possible defendants:

  • Violent attack: Sue the attacker and possibly the prison for negligent failure to provide proper security.
  • Dangerous premises: Sue the prison for failing to address hazards that make the premises dangerous.
  • Motor vehicle accidents: Sue the prison for failing to operate the vehicle safely.
  • Medical malpractice: Sue the doctor or the prison who employs the doctor for failing to provide competent medical care.

As you can see, you might sometimes sue multiple people or entities. Let your New Jersey wrongful death lawyer determine who are the correct defendants.

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How Does A Wrongful Death Lawsuit Work In New Jersey?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil lawsuit for monetary compensation only. If you win your case, the defendant doesn’t get sentenced to prison. Instead, the defendant pays you money.

Some wrongful deaths also qualify as crimes. That would be true of a violent attack that killed your loved one in prison. However, it is up to the government to decide whether to bring criminal charges for the death. Our law firm can help family members with the civil wrongful death lawsuit.

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What Laws Apply To Wrongful Death?

Many possible laws apply. We need to know more about the jail or prison where your loved one died, as well as who is responsible for the death. Here are some considerations:

  • If an inmate or visitor killed your loved one, they are subject to New Jersey’s wrongful death statute.
  • Most prisons are owned by the government. Generally, state and federal employees are immune from a lawsuit, which can make filing a wrongful death lawsuit difficult.
  • However, there are exceptions to this immunity. We can use the New Jersey Tort Claims Act (state employees) or the Federal Tort Claims Act (federal employees) to sue prison guards or other officials responsible for the death. We will analyze whether we can bring a wrongful death lawsuit under one or both of these statutes.
  • Section 1983 is an important civil rights statute. State government officials do not have immunity from section 1983 lawsuits, so we always consider whether we can bring a claim under this statute.
  • The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. This amendment protects federal prisoners.
  • Many prisons contract for medical services with outside doctors. These medical providers are not quite private citizens, but they are also not quite government employees. An experienced attorney can determine which laws apply to them.

As you can see, there is no single law that applies to wrongful deaths in prison. It is vital to work with an experienced lawyer who knows the laws in this area. Attorney Breslow-Testa will determine whether we can sue the person responsible for your loved one’s death.

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Who Files A New Jersey Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Generally, the personal representative of your loved one’s estate will file the lawsuit. If they had a will, the representative should be named in it. If your loved one didn’t have a will (which is a common situation), the probate court will name someone.

Concerned family members should quickly reach out to an attorney. Our law office can analyze who should file and the deadline.

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What Compensation Can I Receive In A New Jersey Prisoner Wrongful Death Claim?

A New Jersey wrongful death lawsuit provides compensation to try and make up for certain losses you suffer. For example, you might qualify for damages for:

  • Lost care, companionship, or guidance
  • The value of services provided, such as cooking, cleaning, childrearing, etc.
  • Lost financial support
  • Medical expenses to treat your loved one’s injuries or illness
  • Funeral and burial expenses

The amount you receive depends on many factors. Because your loved one is in prison, proving damages can get complicated. Someone in prison is not currently providing care or household services, and probably not financial support. But we look at your entire relationship.

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Which Family Members Receive Compensation?

Compensation is usually distributed according to your relationship to your loved one who died:

  • First, the surviving spouse and descendants (children or grandchildren)
  • Second, surviving parents
  • Third, any siblings or nieces/nephews

If your loved one is survived by a spouse and minor children, they will receive most, if not all, of the money from the lawsuit. However, if your loved one was unmarried, then their parents might receive compensation. Consult attorney Breslow-Testa to discuss possible compensation.

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Can I File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit If My Loved One Killed Themself?

Possibly. As mentioned above, prisons must provide proper medical care. They aren’t allowed to ignore mental health crises. They also must provide competent care, which means prescribing medication and monitoring your loved one.

We might be able to sue for a prison suicide if we can show:

  • Prison officials ignored prior suicide attempts or promises to commit suicide.
  • Prison officials did not call a doctor or mental health professional in a timely manner to address a crisis.
  • Prison officials left implements in the cell, like a knife or bed sheets, which your loved one used to kill himself.
  • Doctors did not prescribe proper medication for mental health conditions.
  • Doctors did not properly monitor your loved one.
  • Prison employees encouraged the suicide by, for example, harassing your loved one.

We work closely with mental health professionals to better understand the situation your loved one was facing. We can use this evidence to establish that the doctors did not follow the correct standard of care, which might make them liable.

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Can I Sue The Prison For Failing To Prevent A Violent Attack?

Person punching Sometimes. We closely analyze the circumstances. As an initial matter, the prison is not always automatically responsible for a violent attack. But they could be liable if they failed to take reasonable steps to prevent attacks:

  • Prison officials should screen visitors for weapons and confiscate them.
  • Officials should respond to fights, attacks, or threats of violent attacks by inmates.
  • Prisons should separate inmates who are at risk of fighting and isolate those prisoners who are dangerous.
  • Prisons should respond to allegations of excessive force by prison guards and other employees.
  • Prisons should perform necessary background checks and not employ someone who might pose a danger to prisoners.

When officials/employees don’t do their jobs properly, they might be liable for the attack which happened. Certainly, they can’t willfully ignore threats or even encourage violence among inmates.

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What Evidence Do I Need For A New Jersey Wrongful Death Case?

The evidence depends on the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death. Of course, you probably don’t have a lot of evidence at your fingertips. That’s okay. The evidence is probably at the jail, prison, or hospital where your loved one was treated before passing.

Maybe you received a phone call informing you that your child or husband killed himself in jail or was attacked. That’s enough of a reason to contact a wrongful death attorney to investigate.

We can use the following evidence in a wrongful death case:

  • Eyewitness testimony from those who saw the accident or attack.
  • Testimony from doctors and other medical providers who treated your loved one’s serious medical needs.
  • Photographs of any hazard in the prison which contributed to your loved one’s death, like faulty wiring or loose tiles they slipped on.
  • Reports generated by prison employees, such as incident reports.
  • Medical records showing your loved one’s injuries that led to death.

Each case is different. Some require extensive investigation to uncover what really happened.

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Will This Case Go To Trial?

It’s possible. Few prison officials admit to being responsible for prisoner deaths. Sometimes, we can negotiate a settlement with the defendants. In other cases, though, we must go to trial when there are major disputes about the facts of the case.

Some of our clients are worried about having to testify. Sometimes, you might need to testify if you observed the attack or if your loved one had a mental health condition. This evidence is often critical in cases. We always discuss possible testimony with our clients. We want you to be prepared to testify in court.

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Can I Bring A Wrongful Death Lawsuit If My Loved One Was Killed While Awaiting Trial?

Yes, it’s possible. The analysis is likely the same. Of course, the law we use might differ, depending on the circumstances. But we can bring a wrongful death case for anyone killed while in jail or prison. Never assume you don’t have a case.

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Seasoned New Jersey Prisoner Wrongful Death Lawyer

This is a difficult time. So many questions might be swirling in your head about your loved one’s death. Fortunately, Tara Breslow-Testa is available to answer any questions you have.

A wrongful death case against a state or federal prison or another party cannot bring your loved one back. The person responsible for the death might not even face legal punishment. However, you can still gain some measure of justice. The compensation you receive in this lawsuit can sometimes even force changes in prison culture. Your loved one did not die in vain.

Please contact Tara Breslow-Testa and Associates today. Our firm has spent more than a decade representing criminal defendants. We understand the hazards prisoners face while in custody. And we can demand accountability when your loved one is attacked or denied medical care. To learn more, call (732) 784-2880 or send us an online message for a free consultation.

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