The Eighth Amendment provides Nevada inmates with sufficient medical, dental, and mental care. If you or a loved one has suffered medical malpractice or neglect while in a correctional facility, you can file a medical neglect claim to receive compensation. You need a personal injury attorney to help you prove the claim. Your attorney must show you were an inmate with a serious medical condition and that the correctional facility you were in showed intentional indifference or deprived you of adequate healthcare. When you win the claim, you will receive compensation for medical costs not paid by the correctional facility, pain and anguish, loss of wages, or future income contingent on the nature of your lawsuit.

Nevada Inmates’ Right to Sufficient Medical Care

The United States Constitution's Eighth Amendment provides all inmates in prisons and jails in Nevada the right to adequate medical and mental care. The constitution does not say the best health care or that prisons should make prisoners comfortable. It only requires inmates to receive at least the medical care that civilized persons would deem necessary to deter the wanton infliction of pain or death.

You qualify for sufficient health care as an inmate, whether the government or a private contractor runs the correction facility.

Nevada Jails

Persons apprehended for crimes, awaiting trial but unable to afford bail, or serving a sentence for a misdemeanor conviction are detained in local detention centers called jails.

Per NRS 211, county sheriffs are mandated to offer inmates in jail health care. Inmates in these facilities are eligible for medical care for:

  • Physical harm sustained during apprehension or serving sentence
  • Communicable, infectious, or contagious illnesses
  • Medical evaluation as ordered by a judge or provided by the law

You must know that the government only pays for treatment if the illness or injuries develop in government custody. You will pay for your treatment if the following is true:

  • You obtained the injuries while committing a public crime
  • You suffered injuries during the arrest
  • Your physical injuries are self-inflicted
  • The injuries or illness existed even before incarceration

Clark County Detention Center (CCDC)

CCDC is Clark County’s largest detention center. The facility contracts with NaphCare to offer medical and psychological care at its primary and North Valley Complex facilities.

CCDC pays NaphCare to offer medical care, psychological care, and narcotic detoxification treatment. Women’s medical care, dialysis, emergency, and radiological services are available.

Any inmate in the facility for at least ten days must undergo a thorough medical evaluation. Those released from custody before completing the treatment are supplied with a fair amount of medicine and details on community centers where they can access medical care to complete treatment once they are out.

Nevada Prisons

Prisons are facilities that house individuals found guilty of felony offenses who have been incarcerated for more than twelve months.

NRS 201 delegated the responsibility of administering prison inmates’ medical and psychological care to Nevada's Corrections Medical Division department. The managing director and administrator of the division oversee the department’s dental, clinical psychological health, medical care, and pharmacy amenities. Nursing departments and central drugstores are also available.

The largest prisons in the state have infirmaries, dental wings, and medical clinics. Two facilities have in-house acute care medical centers. Additionally, prisons outsource cardiologists, gastroenterologists, and surgeons to offer adequate care. When the on-site care available is insufficient to address prison inmates’ needs, the facility moves you to the nearest community hospital.

Inmate Injuries Stemming from Inadequate Care

Inmates are at an elevated risk of developing illness compared to the population outside jail or prison, explaining the need for sufficient medical care in correctional centers.

According to a 2017 review journal, Nevada’s spending on inmate medical treatment in 2015 was among the lowest, with the state spending £3,500 per prisoner, which is extremely low compared to the nationwide average of $5,720 per prisoner. The figure was significantly low compared to states like California, which spent an average of $10,000 on medical, dental, and psychological care per inmate. Further, the study ranked healthcare staffing in the state as the fourth bottommost of the 43 states in the survey. Inadequate medical care staffing was the major challenge, primarily in the rural areas, as the state had only 24.5 permanent or full-day health care practitioners serving 1000 inmates.

Additionally, the study showed that prison inmates in the state were paying a fortune of approximately $8 for a medical care appointment, ranking it as the second most expensive for prisoners.

However, the Nevada Corrections Department has been surveying to measure the results and effectiveness of medical care in correctional facilities. The CCDC audit showed that NaphCare, which administers medical care in its facilities, did not administer medication to inmates exiting jail but are continuing medication. Also, the audit showed that the healthcare provider failed to offer adequate mental care.

  1. Inmate or Prisoner’s Grievances

Inmates in correctional facilities can raise grievances about insufficient health care. The common grievances inmates in the state have made so far include:

  • Lack of medical treatment for heart conditions
  • Lack of hepatitis C medical treatment
  • Blindness stems from the lack of insulin for inmates with diabetes, those who have undergone cataract operations, or those undergoing glaucoma treatment
  • Lack of medical treatment for diabetes
  • Lack of access to treatment for torn meniscus
  • Lack of medical attention for tumors
  • Dental malpractice resulting in fractured jaws
  • Lack of medical treatment for injuries caused by tight handcuffs
  • Lack of medical attention after suffering a displaced shoulder due to beating from prison staff
  • Lack of medical attention five days after assault by a cellmate, causing a permanently disabled tongue

Most inmates who raise these grievances experience retaliation from the staff and doctors in correctional facilities. Therefore, many inmates undergo severe pain and the danger of death because they are afraid of seeking medical treatment, which will attract retaliation like assault or food denial.

Filing a Medical Neglect Claim

As an inmate in a Nevada correctional facility and a victim of medical neglect, you are eligible for a Sec. 1983 lawsuit asserting that you were denied access to your right to sufficient care. You will prevail in alleging a violation of your right as an inmate to prison or jail health care by showing that you had a severe medical illness and workers in the correctional facility you are in acted in intentional indifference to the severity of your medical, dental, or mental illness.

In personal injury cases, the plaintiff carries the burden of proof and must show with a preponderance of proof that you suffered medical neglect. It means that you must demonstrate that the correctional facility is more likely than not to engage in medical neglect.

Before delving deeper into the elements of your case that you must prove to secure compensation, it is important to mention the case that led to establishing the right to sufficient medical care for inmates in correctional facilities.

Estelle vs. Gamble

In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court made a landmark ruling on the case Estelle vs. Gamble. The case involved the medical neglect of a Texas inmate, J.W. Gamble, who sustained injuries while on work duty after a cotton bale weighing 600 pounds fell on him.

The plaintiff sought medical treatment for the extreme pain stemming from the injuries for seven months but was unsuccessful. Gamble attended 17 medical appointments for the pain, but in all these cases, he was prescribed painkillers and muscle relaxants. Additionally, he was directed to take bed rest. Despite the many times he sought treatment, Gamble's pain or discomfort did not fade away. As it turns out, he suffered from high blood pressure and had developed a twisted back.

The staff in the prison he was in forced him to resume work despite the complaints he made about experiencing pain. When he could not perform the assigned duties, the staff could punish Gamble for segregation. Ultimately, Gamble sent a handwritten complaint to the courts.

The Supreme Court ruled that inmates' right to protection under the 8th Amendment takes effect when prison staff demonstrate intentional indifference to inmates' serious health care needs.

Serious Health Need

A health need qualifies as “serious” when the refusal to care for the illness or injury places an inmate at significant risk of further harm or unnecessary pain infliction. It is not the routine discomfort associated with incarceration. The medical need does not need to be fatal for it to be deemed serious. Function loss, significant pain, and injury all qualify as serious health needs. Examples of these health conditions include:

  • Cancer
  • Infectious disease
  • Fractured bones
  • Suicide attempts
  • Torn ligaments
  • Chronic pain and diseases
  • Deep cuts
  • An extensive tooth infection that requires extraction

Mild pain or harm does not qualify as a serious health problem. When proving this element of your claim, you will need testimony from medical experts to testify on the seriousness of your injuries. You will lose the claim if the injuries or illness are deemed routine discomfort or mild.

For example, John is a prisoner at CCDC. He asked for mental or psychological care because he was experiencing appetite loss, headaches, nausea, and shakes. The doctor conducting the examination ruled that John has experienced unresolved circumstantial stress and worry but does not recommend further mental care.

If John sues the hospital, he is less likely to win the claim if the court discovers that after the incident, John did not suffer any dangerous symptoms because of the condition. John’s condition does not qualify as a serious health need without any further serious symptoms, and therefore, he will not receive compensation.

The court, with the expert opinion of physicians, will conclude the symptoms John experienced indicate mild stress-associated illness and are simply routine discomfort generally stemming from detention in a correctional facility. It does not qualify as a serious psychological health need.

Nevertheless, the court will award damages when facts change and it is proven that you have a serious health, dental, or mental condition.

For example, Peter is an inmate in a Nevada prison. One night at 3:00 am, Peter informed the medical technical assistant (MTA) on duty that he was having trouble breathing and had back pain. The MTA administers ibuprofen and declines to refer the patient to the acute care medical facility. At 4:00 am, Peter returned to the MTA to inform them that he was experiencing grave symptoms and that the back pain had spread to the neck. Even after pleading with the MTA, Peter was not taken to the health center.

Around 5:00 am, the MTA passes by Peter's cell to check if the symptoms have improved, only to find him semi-conscious and with an abnormal breathing pattern. Finally, the MTA decides to send Peter to the medical wing. Once Peter arrived at the infirmary, the nurse on duty failed to take any further action. It is only at 7:00 am that the nurse and MTA decide to transfer the patient to the nearest hospital, where he is diagnosed with intracranial hemorrhage. Peter falls into a coma, and after a few days, he passes on.

Peter had a serious health need, and the MTA and infirmary nurse showed intentional indifference to the condition by not offering or referring him for improved medical care sooner.

Deliberate or Intentional Unresponsiveness to Serious Health Needs

Correctional facilities can learn of a prisoner or inmate’s serious health need or emergency through:

  • The sick inmate informs the staff or doctors in the detention center
  • A fellow prisoner notifies relevant correctional facility workers about an ailing inmate
  • A doctor discovers a serious health need during a routine examination or when analyzing medical records
  • A correctional facility worker observing the ailing inmate in failing health or distress

When the prison or jail learns of the serious illness an inmate is suffering from, the law requires that they conduct further investigations into the matter and provide adequate medical care. The law will deem the facility to have acted with “deliberate or intentional indifference or unresponsiveness” when it learns of the prisoner’s health need and recklessly or wantonly disregards it while aware of the significant risk of further harm, pain, or death the patient faces.

Instances of intentional indifference to a patient’s serious health needs include:

  • Postponing or denying a sick inmate healthcare access
  • Denying an inmate contact with an expert when needed
  • Disregarding doctor’s directions when administering medication
  • Failure to conduct a full examination on a patient and analyze their medical records to craft the proper medical care
  • The correction facility decides on the kind of treatment the patient should receive, contingent on non-medical aspects like money or ease.

You will not obtain compensation by only demonstrating that the defendant is civilly liable for the medical neglect just because they acted negligently. You must demonstrate that the defendant’s conduct was reckless, a higher evidentiary threshold than negligence.

When proving deliberate indifference, you must present eyewitness testimony, a medical report, and surveillance footage to support your assertion.

Defendants in Section 1983 Claim

Contingent on your case’s nature, as an inmate, you can file a lawsuit against the following individuals for medical neglect:

  • The jail, prison, or any other detention facility you are in
  • The individual employees of the correctional facility who demonstrated intentional indifference to you
  • The health care practitioners who demonstrated intentional indifference to your serious medical need
  • The health care organization employing the doctors or medical practitioners that showed intentional indifference to your serious health need

When identifying the people to sue, you should talk to a personal injury attorney to ensure all those responsible are held civilly responsible for their deliberate or intentional indifference to your medical needs and obtain compensation for all the damages stemming from the medical neglect.

Remedies for Inadequate Health Care for Nevada Inmates

When you, the plaintiff, or a loved one has sustained medical neglect while serving time in a correctional facility in Nevada, you can pursue compensatory damages for various losses stemming from the malpractice. The damages do not make you whole again or return a dead loved one to life, but they remedy the situation and help you or your family live comfortably under the new circumstances. The damages you can recover if you successfully prove your claim are:

  • Doctor’s or hospital bills that the detention center you are in did not pay for
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and anguish
  • Lost future income, where possible

Under unique situations, the court can impose punitive damages, especially if the defendants, in this case, prison or jail staff, were egregious. The court can even instruct the defendant to pay your attorney's fees.

Lastly, the judge will instruct that the correctional facility provide sufficient medical care for your serious health condition.

Inmate Medical Neglect Lawsuit Defenses

Even if you believe you have an intact medical malpractice claim against a defendant, you should consider lawyering up because the defendant will not agree to compensation without a fight. They will advance various defenses to avoid civil liability for medical neglect or reduce the damages they should pay. The defenses they will use to counter your claim are:

  • You did not suffer from a serious medical care condition
  • The defendant lacked knowledge of your serious health need or had no way of knowing your medical condition was serious
  • The defendant did not show intentional indifference
  • The medical attention or lack of care you require is what a civilized society would consider standard care.

The defendant will contest your lawsuit, so you must have an attorney to defeat these defenses and obtain maximum compensation.

Find a Skilled Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

Just because you are under arrest, awaiting trial, or convicted of a crime does not mean you lose your constitutional rights. As an inmate, you are entitled to adequate health care. If your correctional facility violates this right, you can sue them for medical neglect. If you want to file a lawsuit, contact the Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm at 702-996-1224 for a zero-obligation consultation.