Frequently Asked Questions
Q. I think my loved one in prison may have a claim. What should they do first?
A. The first step for any inmate who has suffered any harm or injustice is to file a grievance. This should be done as soon as possible. Prisoners are not permitted to file lawsuits regarding the conditions of their confinement without first completing the grievance process.
Q. How do I complete the grievance process?
A. There are several stages - an initial grievance, with two levels of appeals. The initial grievance must state what happened, the names of who was involved, and what relief the inmate is seeking. If the inmate is hoping to win money in the lawsuit, they must specifically ask for money damages, if they want other relief, such as the performance of a recommended surgery, they should ask for the surgery and money damages. Failure to ask for money damages or other relief available from a court will prohibit them from seeking such relief later. For a full description of the process, click here. To view the grievance forms which must be used, click here.
Q. What should I do if my grievance is denied?
A. Complete the entire grievance process through the final appeal to Mechanicsburg. Almost all grievances are denied, so do not be discouraged. Even if your grievance is granted in part, you should still file an appeal because you cannot bring a lawsuit until you have received a “final” denial of your grievance.
Q. What do I do after the grievance process is finished?
A. Write to us at the Mizner Law Firm. Filing and winning a civil rights lawsuit is a very complex process, and it is essential to have experienced attorneys handle your case. When writing, please include as much detail as you can about what happened to you, who was involved, and how you have been affected.
Q. How long do I have after the grievance process is finished to file a lawsuit?
A. Generally, the statute of limitations requires that inmate claims regarding mistreatment or injury in prison must be filed within two years of the date the grievance process is complete. The time period may be shorter or longer, though, based on the specific circumstances of a case, therefore it is important to act as quickly as possible. Do not delay.
Q. I was released from prison before completing the grievance process. What should I do?
A. Once you are released from prison, you can file a lawsuit regarding something that happened in prison, even if you did not complete the grievance process as long as it is filed with two years of the date of the event which gives rise to the claim. You will generally only have two years from the date of the incident or injury to file a lawsuit, so you must act quickly.
Q. What if I do not have enough money to hire a lawyer?
A. If there is anything that the Mizner Law Firm can do to help you win your case, we will offer you a contingency fee agreement. This means that you do not owe us anything unless we recover money for you. If we for you, the law firm would receive an agreed-upon portion of the total amount of the recovery.
Q. How long does a civil rights lawsuit take?
A. A civil rights lawsuit is filed in federal court, and is a highly complex area of the law. Cases usually take at least a year to resolve, and often times can take several years. Patience, perseverance and hard work is key to winning a civil rights claim.
Q. I want to be closer to my family. Can a lawyer get me transferred to another facility?
A. Unfortunately, there is no right to be assigned to any particular state correctional institution within the Commonwealth, so there is nothing a lawyer can do to force the Department of Corrections to transfer you. In our experience, the DOC will not consent to a transfer even when it is willing to offer money to settle a lawsuit.
Q. Are there any limits to the types of relief I can recover in a lawsuit?
A. Yes. Generally, the only compensation that is available when a lawsuit is won, is money damages. The courts do not have the power to force the DOC to transfer you to a new facility, but there are limited situations where the court may have the power to order that a particular medical procedure be performed. However, the court does not have the power or give you specific privileges within the prison. Similarly, the courts cannot force the prison to parole you, or take time off of a lawful sentence.
Q. My doctor prescribed medicine and the prison staff is not following through, OR I am having pain and the prison staff is refusing to treat it OR I have a disability that the prison staff is refusing to accommodate. What should I do?
A. You should file a grievance immediately. There is nothing that any lawyer can do to assist you with an issue of mistreatment in the prison until after you have completed the grievance process.
Q. Can the law firm send me my medical records?
A. Unfortunately, no. Federal law requires that we hold all medical records in confidentiality, and we are not permitted to mail them to you in the prison.
Q. I am in prison outside of Pennsylvania. Can the Mizner Law Firm handle my case?
A. Our lawyers are only licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania and New York. Unfortunately, we cannot file any lawsuit for claims which occurred in any other state. However, if the incident occurred in either Pennsylvania or New York, and you were not transferred out of the state until later, we may be able to represent you.
Q. I filed a lawsuit by myself, and now I would like an attorney to step into the case. Is the Mizner law Firm willing to review my case and consider representing me?
A. Yes, the Mizner Law Firm is always happy to review your case and see what we might be able to do to assist you. However, the earlier we become involved in your case, the better we are able to assist you, so please write to us as early in the process as you can.
Q. How much money can someone recover in a lawsuit?
A. Every lawsuit is different but generally someone is entitled to recover damages for the following: ill health, physical pain, disability, disfigurement, discomfort, and other physical harm; fear, embarrassment, humiliation, loss of the ability to enjoy the pleasures of life, mental anguish, and other emotional and mental harm; hospital, nursing, and similar care and supplies to treat her condition; and past loss of earnings and lost earning capacity and future loss of earnings and lost earning capacity.