November 2020. PERSONAL INJURY IN PRISON
By Michael Jefferies, Solicitor and
Chairman: Prison Injury Lawyers Association.
Jefferies Personal Injuries Solicitors,
8 Cross Street
Call us for a free initial discussion on 0800 342 3206
Let’s start right from the basics: HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has a legal duty to keep everyone safe, whether they live, work, or are just visiting a prison.
Whether you are injured as a result of being assaulted, or by trips, slips, medical negligence, workshop injuries or almost anything else: the prison owe you a legal duty to keep you safe
If they fail in that duty, if they fail to keep you safe, by taking action they ought to have reasonably foreseen would cause you injury, and you are then injured through no fault of your own as a direct a result of that failure, then you are entitled to compensation.
Article 2 of the Human Rights Act protects your right to life.
It requires the Government to take steps to safeguard the lives of everyone within the UK’s jurisdiction and as a government department, this extends to HM Prison & Probation Service.
In a nutshell, that’s it.
PRISONER PERSONAL INJURY COMPENSATION
Prisons have a duty of care towards all prisoners, that means you, and they must take reasonable measures to keep you safe during their sentence.
The Prison has a responsibility to ensure the safety of prisoners – which includes protecting those known to be at special risk of injury, vulnerable inmates for example, from being assaulted.
If the Prison fails in its duties to guard you against potential risks and you become injured as a result, through no fault of your own, you are entitled to take legal action.
While you lose many of your rights when you enter prison, the law is clear: you keep every single civil right that you have outside of prison that is not taken away expressly (like the right to vote) or impliedly – like the right to pop down the pub each night.
In short you maintain your right to compensation for an injury if it wasn’t your fault.
Prisons are violent places and never more so than at the present time – the latest figures from April 2020 show there were almost 36,000 violent attacks in prison in the last year.
In prison, there are a variety of incidents in which you may sustain an injury including:
a slip, trip or fall
an accident in your cell
an accident at work, in the prison kitchen or workshop, for example.
as a result of medical negligence (including dental negligence)
It can sometimes be difficult to prove that negligence has taken place in prison because it is tricky to produce reliable independent witnesses and to gather evidence within the prison setting.
However, it is entirely possible to successfully claim against the Prison Service. To make sure that you receive the maximum amount of injury compensation you are entitled to, it is important that you have an expert legal team behind you.
Strict time limits apply to personal injury claims; you have a fixed period of time during which a formal claim can be made. Usually, claims must be brought within 3 years of an accident taking place or within 3 years of when you first became aware of your injury.
Types of prison claims
Prisons are dangerous places. Compared to 2010, there are now about 7,000 fewer prison officers, supervising offers and custodial managers working in England and Wales. This has resulted in a higher risk of injury for both officers and prisoners and, which has been illustrated by a growing number of assaults.
If you are assaulted whilst in prison it is not always possible to bring legal action; sometimes violent incidents are unexpected and unavoidable. However, in some instances, assaults can be prevented. The prison is legally required to protect vulnerable prisoners from potential attacks and to implement violence reduction strategies to deal with violent inmates.
Some prisoners are at particular risk of assault, because of their offence or background. In these cases, the prison must take extra measures to protect these individuals. In the most serious cases, vulnerable prisoners may be segregated under Rule 45 for their own safety.
The prison is required to make a proper risk assessment on inmates and assign them to cells according to their profile. If they fail to do this or make a grave error in the process which leads to an assault or other violent incident taking place, they may be liable. When a prison officer receives intelligence that an assault is going to happen, e.g. from an inmate complaining that they have received threats, they must work to protect this prisoner from assault. There are a number of documents they should complete, including intelligence reports and the risk to you should be assessed. If the prison fails to take steps to stop an assault taking place, legally, this is negligence.
If you have been a victim of assault and it can be proven that steps could have been taken to prevent the incident, you may be able to take legal action.
It doesn’t matter if you were assaulted by a fellow inmate, prison officer or another member of staff, if the prison could have protected you from injury, but has failed to do so, you are legally entitled to make a claim for compensation.
How much could you receive?
The amount you can claim for assault will depend on the type of injury you have sustained. Past claims have resulted in compensation awards ranging from £1,000 to £250,000.
Slips and trips
Slips and trips in prison commonly occur on wet or badly maintained floor surfaces. They can also be caused by obstructions, poor lighting or prisoners wearing inappropriate footwear.
Areas should be well-lit and properly maintained. In addition, the prison should have cleaning systems in place to promptly deal with spillages or wet surfaces which cause a hazard.
If prison staff have been negligent in their duty to adhere to health and safety procedures, and this leads to you slipping and becoming injured, you can hold them to account and claim for your injuries.
It can sometimes be difficult to prove that negligence has taken place because it is tricky to produce reliable independent witnesses and to gather sufficient evidence. Nevertheless, it is possible to successfully make a claim against the Prison Service for an accident of this kind.
How much could you receive?
Because slips and trips can result in a wide range of different injuries, it is tricky to give an indication of how much compensation you might receive.
To find out the value of your claim, contact a personal injury solicitor who will be able to assess your circumstances.
An injury in your cell
The prison is required to provide all prisoners with a reasonable and safe standard of living. This includes ensuring that the furniture within your cell and communal areas is not faulty and does not create a hazard.
If there are any broken or hazardous furniture or fittings in your cell or bathroom that have the potential to harm you or others, you should report it to a prison officer immediately. The prison should then take steps to address the problem and replace or repair the faulty item.
How much could you receive?
Like slips and trips, there are a variety of different injuries that may be sustained as a result of faulty furniture or fittings. An experienced personal injury solicitor will be able to give you an idea of how much you could claim once they have learnt more about the incident.
Joe slipped in the shower and caught his leg on a broken bench. He sustained a deep cut on his leg which became infected. Because of the infection, he had to attend healthcare 10 times for the wound dressing to be changed.
His injury healed but Joe was left with a permanent scar on his leg which distorted one of his tattoos. When he made a claim, Joe’s solicitor discovered that the bench had been broken for three weeks and the prison had not tried to fix it. The Prison was sued for negligence and Joe received £2,799 in compensation.
Bunk bed falls
Your bunk bed in prison should be in a safe condition and should be equipped with sufficient safety precautions such as a guard rail on the top bunk. If the prison has provided you with a bed that is unsafe and you become injured as a result, you may be able to claim.
If you have a serious medical condition that increases your risk of injury this should be catered for by the Prison. In respect of your sleeping arrangements, you should be allocated the bottom bunk bed or supplied with a safety guard if you sleep on the top bunk. In the event that the Prison fails to do this and you sustain an injury as a result, you are legally entitled to hold the prison liable for negligence.
Liam fell from the top bunk of his bed after experiencing a night terror. There was no safety rail attached to the bed, even though he had asked repeatedly for one to be fitted along his bunk.
When he fell, Liam hit his head on a pipe, badly cutting his head and suffering whiplash to his neck and lower back. The bleeding from the cut triggered his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which he had suffered after serving in the army for 10 years.
After contacting a personal injury solicitor, Liam claimed for both his physical injuries and his psychological symptoms and he received £6,000 in compensation.
Accidents at work
Prisoners are also owed a duty of care to ensure that their place of work is safe. The prison should carry out sufficient risk assessments in order to provide a safe working environment. Adequate training must be given and suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves, boots or goggles must be provided.
If you are injured while working in prison, in the workshop, kitchen, laundry room or other location, because prison staff have failed in the above duties, you might be able to claim.
Sean slipped on some loose plastic while breaking up window frames in the prison workshop. He landed on his left arm, breaking his left wrist.
At the time of the accident, Sean was not wearing any Personal Protection Equipment and the trainers he was wearing were unsuitable for the area and the job he was doing. He had also not been given any training or guidance from the prison staff about keeping the floor clear in the area he was working in.
His wrist injury caused Sean pain and discomfort for almost three years. He sought the help of a leading prison injury solicitor and claimed £5,000 in compensation for his injuries.
Even though you are incarcerated, you are still entitled to receive healthcare and treatment when necessary. However, inmates are in the hands of the prison service when it comes to medical treatment.
Sometimes, prisons do not deliver treatment or refer prisoners for care when they should do and this can cause an injury or illness to become worse. This is a form of medical negligence.
In addition, healthcare should supply you with any medication you require for an existing medical condition while you are incarcerated. If you have been denied prescription medication for an extensive period of time and this has led to your condition worsening, you are legally permitted to claim for this.
If you have experienced substandard care or been denied treatment or medication in prison and this has led to hospitalisation or a delayed recovery, you may be able to claim medical negligence compensation.
Prisoners are also legally entitled to receive a good standard of dental treatment. Unfortunately, because of a shortage of dentists in prison and the large numbers of inmates requiring treatment, many prisoners experience long delays in dental treatment and some receive poor care. Consequently, many it is not uncommon for prisoners to suffer from toothache and continuing problems with their teeth.
However, there is no excuse for substandard or delayed treatment and if your teeth suffer as a result, you may be entitled to take legal action and claim dental negligence compensation.
How much could you receive?
Medical and dental negligence claims are often very complex. Until your circumstances are properly assessed, it is impossible to say how much your claim might be worth. If you have suffered negligence at the hands of a doctor, dentist or other medical professional while in prison, it is essential that you seek expert legal advice as soon as possible.
On entering prison, Steve immediately requested dental treatment as he knew some of his teeth were in bad condition. It took 5 months for him to be seen by a dentist. By this time, one of his teeth was badly decayed and needed to be removed. However, it was not removed for more than a year.
Because of the delay in treatment, Steve experienced prolonged pain and suffering. What’s more, because the prison dentist had failed to properly assess the condition of his teeth, he required further dental treatment that he may not have needed had he been seen by a dentist sooner.
After he pursued a claim for dental negligence, Steve received £2,500 in compensation.
What to do if you sustain a personal injury
If you are unfortunate enough to be injured in prison, there are a number of steps you should take. You must:
- Report your injury by informing a member of staff. Request that they complete a Report of Injury to Prisoner form with details of the time, date and place of the incident. If they refuse to do this, put in a COMP1 form detailing the accident and make it clear that the Officers do not want to record it.
- Make a note of the specific prison officer you spoke to.
- If anyone else witnessed the incident, make a note of their names too.
- Report to healthcare for assessment and treatment. Write down the names of the healthcare staff you dealt with.
- Request that photos of your injury are taken. Do this immediately both verbally and in writing using a COMP1 form.
- Request that CCTV of the area is retained. Prisons usually get rid of CCTV footage every 3 months so it’s important that you do this as soon as possible. Make a request in writing via the complaints system.
- Contact an experienced personal injury solicitor to claim compensation.
It is important to remember that you have 3 years from the date of your injury to make a claim.
What you can claim for
In legal terms, the compensation awarded in personal injury claims both in and out of prison is known as damages. There are two types of damages: general damages and special damages.
General damages are the portion of your compensation that covers the physical aspects of your injury. The amount you receive will depend on:
- the type of injury you have sustained,
- the level of pain you have endured, the length of time you have suffered
- how long you are likely to continue to suffer in the future if you have not yet fully recovered
- any long-term loss of function, permanent scarring or other negative physical factors you’ve experienced
- any mental stress and psychological trauma you’ve suffered
The special damages part of your claim will take into account how your injury has impacted you financially and includes:
- any loss of earnings you have experienced (or will experience)
- any out-of-pocket expenses you’ve incurred e.g. the cost of postage or telephone calls
- the cost of any ongoing care or future surgery you may require
It is important to remember that you could continue to experience the effects of your injury after you have been released from prison. When calculating the special damages part of your claim, depending on the length of your sentence, your solicitor may take into consideration how your injury might impact your life on the outside, including your future ability to work and earning capacity.
The claims process with Jefferies
When you first contact the team at Jefferies Solicitors, we will assess your circumstances and if you have a valid claim, we will send you some paperwork to fill in. These forms will ask for further details about the incident, your injuries and who you reported it to.
We will then write to the Prison (or relevant Hospital Trust in the case of medical negligence) by sending a Claims Notification
Form or a Letter of Claim.
They will then have 3 months to respond and give their stance on liability (whether they believe they are responsible for your injury). If liability is admitted, we will then seek medical evidence to help value your claim before looking to settle your case.
If liability is denied by the Prison or Hospital Trust, we will work to gather further evidence, such as additional witness statements or medical reports, to support your claim and persuade the third party to reconsider their decision.
If the Prison continues to deny liability, we might look to issue court proceedings. This does not necessarily mean that your claim will reach the court stage; it could be settled out-of-court before the hearing date.
Frequently asked questions
Why should I claim?
The personal injury compensation system was set up to help people who are injured because of someone else’s negligence. Making a claim can help to bring about a sense of justice and hold the person responsible to account.
If you are injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you are legally entitled to claim compensation for your suffering and to recover any losses you may have experienced as a result of your injury.
If a prison or hospital trust has been negligent in its duties and this has resulted in you becoming injured, you can hold them liable. You have 3 years from the date of your accident or injury in which to make a personal injury claim.
How much could I claim?
The amount of compensation you could receive will depend on a number of factors.
- the level of injury you have suffered
- the severity of your condition
- the length of time you have been suffering for
- any complications you have experienced After taking on your claim, your solicitor fully assess your circumstances in order to value your claim.
Throughout the legal process, they will update you on the progress of your claim and will ensure that they work hard to recover as much compensation as we can for you. How long will my claim take?
It can be difficult to predict how long a claim will take at the outset. If the prison deny liability for your injury, we may need to issue court proceedings which may prolong the length of your claim.
What information will I need to provide?
You will need to provide your solicitor with full details of the accident or assault, the injuries you have suffered and who you reported the incident to. Any other information such as photographs of your injury or CCTV of the incident can also be really helpful.
Will I have to pay anything?
Most personal injury lawyers, including Jefferies, usually handle claims on a no win, no fee basis. Under a no win, no fee agreement (sometimes known as a Conditional Fee Agreement).
If we don’t win your case, you won’t owe us a penny. If we do win your case, the amount you pay is capped at a fixed amount of your compensation (usually 25%).
Can a family member/partner speak to you on my behalf?
Many prisoners prefer to have a partner or loved one on the outside communicate with their solicitor on their behalf. If this is something you would like, you will need to give written permission by signing a form of authority and returning it to your solicitor.
Will I have to go to court?
Most claims are settled before they reach the court stage. If your claim does go that far, your solicitor will make sure that you are fully aware of what is expected of you and will be on hand to answer your questions and queries.
PRISON OFFICER ASSAULT COMPENSATION
Assaults on prison officers, in the year to June 2019 have reached another record high in England and Wales, according to Ministry of Justice figures. Prisons that have failed to keep their officers safe could be held liable to pay out compensation in many of these assault cases.
Jefferies Solicitors may be able to help you claim compensation if you are the victim of an assault by a prisoner. Call us today on 0800 342 3206 to discuss your claim or feel free to get in touch with our friendly team online.
COMMON PRISON OFFICER ASSAULT INJURIES
Prison officer are susceptible to a wide range of injuries whilst operating in such an unpredictable workplace environment. Some of the most common injuries they might sustain from an attack are:
- Bite wounds
- Internal injuries
- Stab wounds
- Fractures/broken bones
- Broken teeth
- Bruising (e.g. black eyes)
OTHER TYPES OF ACCIDENTS INVOLVING PRISON OFFICERS
The various scenarios which lead to the injuries above often include breaking up fights between inmates, controlling prison riots and restraining inmates. If the standard of training is low or the prison is not well maintained it may lead to other injuries such as:
- Slips and trips resulting from slippery or poorly maintained flooring
- Muscular aches or back injuries due to improper manual handling
You should get in touch with a legal expert if you suspect that you have a claim. A personal injury lawyer will be able to walk you through the legal process step by step.
EVIDENCE THAT WILL BE REQUIRED TO MAKE A CLAIM
The prison has a responsibility to look after its workers and must take reasonable steps to ensure that the workplace is safe. To pursue a compensation claim it will be important to provide evidence to show that the organisation – in this case, a prison – has committed an act of negligence. The evidence may be required to show that the employer:
- Was unaware of an inmate with a history of violence
- Ignored previous violent behaviour and failed to implement measures to prevent future assaults from occurring
- Failed to carry out an appropriate risk assessment
- Failed to implement the risk assessment
You could also have the right to claim if the organisation you work for has failed to provide sufficient training or protective equipment. Each prison officer should be trained to diffuse volatile situations and they should be given suitable safety equipment to help reduce the chance of suffering a serious injury. There may grounds for a compensation claim against your employer if they have failed to take these steps.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN MY CLAIM?
Claims are usually categorised into two sections: the ‘general damages’ and the ‘special damages’. The ‘general damages’ part of your claim incorporates the physical or psychological injuries you have sustained from the assault. The ‘special damages’ will cover things such as loss of earnings, travel expenses, medical bills and the cost of care or therapy.
WHY SHOULD I MAKE A CLAIM?
It is important to make a claim in order to prevent the employer from committing future acts of negligence. A successful claim will potentially help to improve the working conditions within the prison for you and your colleagues. Moreover, you cannot legally be dismissed from your position for pursuing a claim against your employer. If this happens you could be entitled to make an unfair dismissal claim and you should get in touch with a legal specialist.
HOW TO CLAIM COMPENSATION?
At Jefferies Solicitors, we have an expert team of personal injury lawyers who have a wide variety of experience dealing with personal injury claims, including prison officer assaults. We’ll guide you through the entire legal process in a quick and easy manner to ensure that you are awarded the compensation you deserve.
Call us for a free initial discussion on 0800 342 3206 today or get in touch with us online.
PRISON VISITOR COMPENSATION
Everything that has been said about personal injury to prison officers and prisoners applies equally to the hundreds of thousands of people who visit our prisons every year.
If you are injured when visiting prison call Jefferies Solicitors for a free initial discussion on 0800 342 3206 today or get in touch with us online, we are not just expert in personal injury but they are qualified in prison law too – and that can make all the difference in the world of prisons.