In most cases, no, you cannot file a lawsuit for your loved one in prison. Usually an incarcerated person must file a lawsuit on their own. But there are some exceptions.
Are you allowed to file a lawsuit on behalf of your loved one in prison?
In almost all cases, no. Unless you are a licensed attorney, you are not able to file a lawsuit on behalf of your loved one. Usually, there are only two people that can file a lawsuit for someone — the person whose rights were violated or their attorney. And, even then, filing a lawsuit can be difficult.
Before your loved one can file a lawsuit, they must first satisfy the exhaustion requirement. That means they must go through their prison’s internal process before they can file a lawsuit.
Are there any times when you can file a suit on behalf of your loved one?
Yes. There is one major exception to the general rule that you cannot file a lawsuit on behalf of your loved one. That is if your loved one dies while in custody. In that case, you have the right to sue the government. You might be able to sue for negligence, wrongful death or civil rights violations. There are some common situations in which these might apply:
- Using excessive force
- Failing to protect a prisoner who is a suicide risk
- Using illegal chokeholds
- Failing to provide required mental health care
- Committing medical neglect
- Allowing a death from a drug withdrawal
- Permitting unreasonable delays in providing medical care in an emergency
- Failing to give required medication
How can you help your loved one with their lawsuit?
While you can’t usually file a lawsuit for your loved one in prison, you can still help. In fact, there are many ways you can provide help to your loved ones in their legal cases.
- Hire an attorney. Since you are on the outside, you have better access to money and information than your loved one. If you can afford it, an attorney will likely be the biggest help in your loved one’s case. You may even be able to find an attorney who is willing to work pro bono, meaning for free.
- Send money. Filing a lawsuit is difficult and time consuming. It is also expensive. Your loved one will need stamps and stationery to send communication back and forth with their lawyer. Your loved one may also know a jailhouse lawyer who can help them with their case. They charge far less than attorneys on the outside but can still be very helpful. Your loved one might be able to pay them with commissary funds.
- Do research. People in prison don’t have access to the open internet. That makes doing legal research difficult. You can help your loved one by doing research online and sending relevant information to them. The best way to do that is through the mail.
- Be there. If your loved one is at the point of filing a lawsuit, things have gotten pretty hard for them in prison. More than anything, they can use your emotional support. Keep lines of communication open and be there to listen when they need you. Visit when you can.
In most cases, you cannot file a lawsuit on behalf of your loved one in prison. Only they or their lawyer can do that. The only major exception is if your loved one dies while in custody. There are still ways that you can help with their lawsuit and with the difficult time they are having.