Too often, when serious injury or wrongful death occurs in jail or prison, victims and their families are left wondering where to turn for answers. Budge & Heipt focuses on obtaining answers and achieving justice for victims and their loved ones.

Our firm has successfully handled cases involving wrongful death in jail or prison resulting from denial of medical care for many kinds of medical conditions, alcohol withdrawal, prescription drug withdrawal (e.g., benzodiazepines such as Xanax and similar drugs), restraint-related death such as suffocation and asphyxia, and excessive force by jail personnel. We have successfully litigated wrongful death and serious injury cases against county jails, city jails, state and federal prisons, and private correctional healthcare companies who operate under contract to provide jail healthcare. We have recovered millions of dollars for victims and their loved ones and we firmly believe that our advocacy helps to make a better and safer system for others.

When a family member dies in jail or prison, surviving family members are often kept in the dark about what happened. Budge & Heipt has the experience and expertise to help uncover what really occurred. By demanding all relevant documentation, requiring depositions of involved officers and personnel of the jail or prison, and working closely with nationally-renowned experts, we can help families obtain justice.

While some deaths that occur in jail are not caused by the fault of the jail or its officers, inmates sometimes die in jail under circumstances that suggest wrongdoing by the jail, its staff, companies that provide correctional healthcare under contract, or jail medical personnel. The attorneys at Budge & Heipt focus on cases that involve serious neglect or wrongdoing resulting in death or significant injuries to jail inmates. Under appropriate circumstances, constitutional claims can be pursued against jail staff members, jail medical personnel, correctional healthcare corporations, and/or the municipality or government agency (i.e., city or county) that operates the jail.

Determining the types of constitutional claims that should be pursued in cases involving egregious neglect or wrongdoing to a jail inmate involves a complex analysis. The attorneys at Budge & Heipt are experienced in evaluating these cases, selecting the right constitutional claims to bring, and pursuing the necessary proof during the legal process. We have successfully sued private correctional healthcare companies for medical neglect, as well as individual jail officers for neglect and other wrongdoing, medical personnel whose deliberate indifference causes unnecessary suffering or death to inmates in need of proper care, and counties and other governmental entities who operate jails and lockup facilities.

Many attorneys who do not regularly practice in the area of civil rights litigation on behalf of the families of deceased inmates fail to appreciate the unique legal standards that accompany these constitutional claims. For example, whether a jail inmate is a “pretrial detainee” (i.e. an inmate who has been arrested but not yet convicted) or a convicted prisoner can determine whether a lawsuit should be pursued under the 8th Amendment or the 14th Amendment (an important consideration, especially in jurisdictions that analyze these claims differently). Additionally, attorneys sometimes fail to recognize that proving “deliberate indifference” by jail staff and jail medical personnel requires evidence of more than just negligence by jail staff. Moreover, civil rights lawsuits against counties and cities for the death of a jail inmate—as well as lawsuits against private companies that provide correctional healthcare under contract—often require proof of a policy, pattern, practice or custom by the municipality or private company. In short, where the facts suggest that an inmate or detainee suffered or died due to neglect or other wrongdoing, an attorney pursuing a civil rights claim should be prepared to undertake deep and wide-ranging discovery and investigation in order to gather the facts necessary to prove the case. Failing to do so can result in the dismissal of such a case before it even gets to trial.

At Budge & Heipt, we have successfully pursued cases involving wrongful death of inmates based on the failure to provide appropriate medical care for pre-existing medical conditions, denial of medication resulting in harm and death, failure to prevent assaults against inmates where warning signs suggest a substantial danger, drug and alcohol withdrawal in jail, death from dehydration, the use of excessive force by jail guards and corrections officers, and other forms of neglect or abuse. We work hard to gather the evidence that families need, and we push hard to gather the information and evidence that the law requires.

Although we are based in Seattle, we have handled in-custody death cases in federal district courts around the country. We are particularly interested in litigation designed to hold private correctional healthcare companies and their staff accountable when they fail to provide incarcerated people with the healthcare they need. Obtaining compensation for family members and victims of unconstitutional jail deaths while simultaneously working to improve the system for others are our primary goals. When we take a case that implicates the constitutional rights of someone who has been locked up, we pride ourselves on our thoroughness and tenacity, our knowledge of the federal laws surrounding constitutional claims for inmates, our excellent legal writing, and our litigation experience and skill in preparing for trial and presenting our case to a jury.

We are experienced trial lawyers with a track record that speaks for itself. We have the skills and resources to go toe-to-toe with anyone, including jails, prisons, private correctional healthcare companies, and the government. We do everything in our power to achieve the best possible results for our clients.

Our notable results include an historic jury verdict in the amount of $26.75 million — an amount believed to be the largest jury verdict of its kind for the death of a jail inmate against a private correctional healthcare company. We have also achieved recent results of $6.75 million against a county and correctional healthcare company arising from an inmate’s death in a county jail, a $4.5 million settlement for the death of a teenager in a Washington jail, a $4.25 million settlement against a national correctional healthcare company for the death of a jail inmate, a $3.75 million settlement arising from the medical neglect of a prisoner, a $3 million settlement in a jury trial involving the death of a Washington prisoner at the hands of another prisoner, a $1.5 million settlement resulting from the death of a Washington inmate by a known-dangerous prisoner, a $1.1 million settlement for an untreated infection in jail, a $1.2 million settlement involving death from dehydration, and numerous other confidential seven-figure outcomes. Our hard work and dedication has resulted in millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements and we firmly believe our efforts help to change the system for the better.

If you would like to discuss a case involving serious injury or wrongful death in prison or jail, please contact us today for a free consultation.