If your rights have been violated, the experienced civil rights attorneys at Miller Law Group can help you hold the government accountable.
Here are three important questions to ask when deciding whether you have a viable civil rights claim:
Who harmed you?
Identifying the person, agency, or government that violated your rights has a significant impact on your civil rights claim.
The most common types of civil rights actions—Bivens actions and § 1983 claims—require that the defendant was acting “under color of law,” generally meaning that he was acting in an official capacity when the misconduct occurred. This is crucial to the viability of any civil rights claim.
Also, government officials may have different levels of immunity based on their position or the role that they were acting in at the time. For example, a police officer may only be able to assert qualified immunity, which is immunity for an act done in good faith, while a judge or legislator may have absolute immunity from civil liability.
What kind of damages can I recover?
One common misconception about civil rights litigation is that the amount of money recovered is based on the importance of the right violated. However, the Supreme Court has held that awards need to be based on the actual damages suffered. This means that you can recover for medical bills, therapy, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
Additionally, you may be able to recover punitive damages, which serve as a punishment when the violation is particularly heinous. Without actual or punitive damages, you will not be able to recover a meaningful sum, even if the government violated a truly important right.
What rights can I protect in a civil rights lawsuit?
Typically, civil rights lawsuits protect people’s constitutional rights. The most common are those guaranteed by the Bill of Rights—the first ten Amendments to the Constitution. Frequently enforced rights include the right to due process under the law, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. These rights are often violated when there is police brutality or abusive conduct by correctional or probation officers.
While constitutional rights are the primary basis for civil rights claims, § 1983—the statute that allows individuals to file a lawsuit against state governments for rights violations—allows you the ability to enforce the rights granted by any federal law.
Contact Miller Law Group for a free consultation, or call 919-348-4361.