Published On: Wed, Apr 1st, 2020

Inmate Files an Injury Claim After Transportation Van Crash. Does he Have a Case?

Inmate rights are a fiercely debated subject, and one with many nuances. In a recent case, a Michigan prisoner filed several personal injury claims. These claims stem from what the Detroit native says were severe injuries due to a prison transport van crash outside of Battle Creek. But, does he have a case? If so, what are his odds of winning? And what would he receive? Let’s take a closer look at the personal injury rights and issues involved in this prisoner’s personal injury suit.

photo/Claim Accident Services

The Events Leading to the Suit

The van wreck occurred on January 21, 2020, on Interstate 94 while the prisoner’s transport van was driven by Kalamazoo County Sheriff James VanDyken. The crash report stated that the van rear-ended a truck as traffic was slowing down. The driver told officials he was checking the monitors in the cab when the crash occurred. The crash sent all nine people in the van to the hospital, including the plaintiff, Detroit native Chris Sampson. He personally suffered several broken vertebrae and a cut on his scalp while the driver was uninjured.

The crash report states that at least five inmates were not wearing seat belts when the crash occurred. The staff members on board were not wearing seat belts at the time either. Sampson says that the agents refused to strap him in, which contributed to his serious injuries, and he could not have strapped himself in since he was shackled. This also meant he couldn’t brace for impact.

There are additional concerns regarding Sampson’s care. He was severely injured and transported to the hospital. Yet he was kicked out of the hospital after several hours. He was then taken to Kalamazoo County Jail. He was there for a week before being transported to a similar facility in Illinois. It was at this point that a judge sent him home to recover before his next court date.

Sovereign Immunity

Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine stating that the state or sovereign cannot commit a legal wrong. Furthermore, it is immune to both civil suits and criminal prosecution. This is separate from the concept of state immunity, a doctrine that states a sovereign or state is not amenable in foreign courts.

According to Attorney Brian White & Associates, in theory, this limits the ability to sue the government for injuries that occur in the courts. However, it is possible when government officials are negligent. In this particular case, Chris Sampson has another party to sue – for-profit government contractor U.S. Corrections. This is the company that owned and operated the van that was involved in the crash. Private entities like these do not benefit from sovereign immunity. Prisoners injured during transport or denied proper medical care in a crash can also sue for civil rights violations because the government allows such claims.

Insurance Law

Sampson’s attorney stated that he will not be billed for crash-related medical expenses due to Michigan’s no-fault insurance law. Sampson himself said that he had physical and mental traumas due to the crash, and his legal team says the crash itself was avoidable. 

However, transportation services are subject to other liability concerns. For example, the transportation provider could be sued both by someone who was harmed or killed by a prisoner escape during transport and the family of a prisoner killed during transport. They may also be liable if someone is injured during transport. Personal injury lawyers take any such case on a contingency fee basis, and have done so in the past as well.

The double-edged liability forces prisoner transport services to go through detained procedures to protect everyone. But the uncertainty of these events means things can and do go wrong.


There are a number of voices calling for reform of the prison system and a revision of inmate rights. Legal cases like this highlight the need for change, though what needs to be done remains open to debate.

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About the Author

- Veselina Dzhingarova has long experience in internet marketing and SEO. She is passionate about blogging to share her expertise. Veselina is a regular contributor at many other online publishers like chamberofcommerce.com, marketoracle.co.uk, newswire.net, bizcommunity.com, socialnomics.net and more. She is the co-founder of Financia­ltipsor.co­m, cryptoe­xt.com, Bl­ogforweb.c­om, Techsu­rprise.com­, travelti­psor.com a­nd others.­ You can get in touch with her on LinkedIn , Google+ or at [email protected]

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