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Michigan Inmate Files Personal Injury Claims After Prison Van Crash

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A Michigan inmate alleges he was seriously injured after the prison transport van he was riding in crashed with another vehicle on Interstate 94 near Battle Creek in January. As a result, the 26-year-old inmate, Chris Sampson of Detroit, has filed multiple personal injury claims this week against the transport van’s owner, U.S. Corrections, a for-profit extradition company.

The complaints, filed with the insurance policy of U.S. Corrections, allege that Sampson has been left “both physically and mentally traumatized” following the accident, which Sampson’s attorney contends was entirely avoidable.

The accident occurred on January 21, along Michigan’s I-94 westbound highway near mile marker 91 in Kalamazoo County. Nine passengers were on board at the time, all of whom were transported to a local hospital according to state traffic records.

U.S. Corrections was transporting Sampson from Oakland County Jail in Pontiac, Michigan, to the Will County Adult Detention Center in Joliet, Illinois. The transport came following Sampson having pleaded not guilty to burglary charges, for which he has yet to stand trial.

The accident report indicates that traffic was slowing when the transport van carrying the inmates suddenly rear-ended a truck in the same lane. According to the report, the van’s driver admitted to checking the monitors in his cab when the crash took place. Both the driver and passenger of the truck were uninjured.

A local Michigan news outlet, MLive.com, issued a report the day after the accident confirming that two inmates remained in critical condition with serious injuries at Bronson Methodist Hospital, one of which was presumably Sampson (though the identities of the inmates were not released at the time of publication).

Sampson alleges he sustained several injuries in the accident including breaking multiple vertebrae and sustaining a large scalp laceration. WWMT, a CBS news affiliate out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, reported that Bronson Methodist Hospital declined to confirm those injuries, citing patient privacy. However, WWMT indicated that Sampson’s medical records, which he provided to the local news station, confirm his alleged injuries.

WWMT quoted Sampson as saying, “The last thing I remember was looking out the window and we were on the freeway…I just remember waking up to see firemen and panicking. Everybody panicking.”

The official accident report confirms that Sampson and four other inmates were not wearing seat belts when the crash occurred. Additionally, both U.S. Corrections staff members on board were reportedly not wearing seat belts.

Sampson’s complaint alleges that the van was equipped with seat belts, but cites U.S. Corrections employees as being negligent for failing to utilize the restraints and secure the inmates. Sampson alleges the responsibility fell squarely on the transport company’s employees, and that it was impossible for him to buckle his own safety belt due to being shackled at the ankles, wrists, and across the abdomen. Consequently, Sampson claims, the shackles left him unable to brace for impact.

“I never thought I’d be in this type of situation, or pain. It was a traumatic experience,” Sampson reportedly told WWMT, CBS 3 in Kalamazoo.

Moreover, Sampson alleges that he did not receive adequate medical care while at Bronson Hospital, and that after only a few hours — despite the severity of his injuries — was transferred to the Kalamazoo County Jail. After a week there, Sampson was reportedly transferred to Illinois. He alleges that throughout his stay at Kalamazoo County Jail he remained in significant pain and was not treated or seen by medical professionals.

Sampson’s attorney is reportedly just beginning the process of negotiating possible dollar amounts for the multiple personal injury claims with the involved parties. CBS 3 reported that the inmate would not be billed for any medical expenses due to Michigan’s no-fault insurance law, as cited by Sampson’s attorney.