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Frequently Asked Questions About Inmate Medical Care

Handcuffs in a HandIt is an unfortunate reality that when someone is incarcerated, they lose some of their rights. However, access to adequate medical care is not one that should be sacrificed. Inmates are entitled to adequate medical care, just like anyone else, and when they do not receive it, they have the same right as any other person to seek compensation if they believe malpractice was committed.

What Rights Do Inmates Have?

In California jurisprudence, it is held that inmates do not have the right that prisons be ‘comfortable,’ nor to have ‘state of the art’ health care, but they do have the right to care good enough to prevent the “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain” or death. However, in recent years, California’s prisons have routinely received failing grades when evaluated on inmate health care, with several cases of alleged neglect being aired in the media.

When an inmate experiences substandard medical care, especially if it can be shown that medical professionals were not only negligent, but indifferent, to the patient’s needs, they have both state and federal remedies. It is important to understand the difference between the two; a federal lawsuit in this type of case tends to fall under civil rights law (alleging that deprivation of medical care counts as a violation of the Eighth Amendment), as opposed to medical malpractice, which is a state civil law claim. Depending on the nature of the harm you suffered, it is possible to file both types of suits, though many file one or the other.

Federal Intervention

Something to keep in mind if you or a loved one is in the position of experiencing prison malpractice is that since 2006, California’s inmate care system has been under at least nominal federal control. After a spate of inmate deaths, a federal district judge ruled that the system required federal oversight - the rate of inmate deaths in the years leading up to the decision was approaching one per week, for a multitude of reasons. The system has improved, but still remains in a state where federal judges currently have much more sway over inmate health care decisions than they would otherwise. This does not change the underlying reality that medical malpractice and civil rights claims both still occur - it merely changes the relevant authority who may decide the validity of such claims.

Despite the outer trappings having some specifics to the situation, the underlying components for a state law medical malpractice claim are the same. If a medical professional provided care that did not comport with the prevailing standard, they may very well be liable for medical malpractice or negligence. The only real difference is that the standard of care for inmates will differ slightly from that for the general populace - an “adequate” level of care, versus a “quality” level of care.

Get an Experienced Attorney on Your Side

Even if you or a loved one is incarcerated, it does not mean that you lose your rights to be treated like a human being. To deny medical care has been, in some situations, deemed cruel and unusual, and it can certainly be something for which medical professionals may be held liable. The understanding and compassionate San Jose medical malpractice attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. can help guide you through the process of filing a state law claim, and help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Contact our office today to discuss your case. We serve San Jose, the Bay Area, and the counties of San Benito, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda and Monterey.

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Client Reviews
★★★★★
My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.