Section 1983 allows individuals the ability to obtain injunctive and monetary damages against the government for violations of their constitutional rights. The experienced civil rights attorneys at Miller Law Group can help you determine what damages are recoverable if your rights have been violated.
One of the most important Supreme Court decisions on § 1983 damages is Carey v. Piphus, 435 U.S. 247 (1978). There, the lower trial court had found that there was a constitutional violation but refused to award damages because there was no evidence of actual harm suffered. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that absent evidence of actual injury, plaintiffs may only recover nominal damages of one dollar. Despite this ruling, plaintiffs may recover actual damages, which include medical expenses and compensation for pain and suffering, among others.
Even without actual damages, plaintiffs may be able to recover punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for particularly egregious violations. Unfortunately, the availability of punitive damages varies, depending on who the defendant is. In Smith v. Wade, 461 U.S. 30 (1983) the Supreme Court held that punitive damages may be recovered from individual officers, if their conduct was “motivated by evil . . . or when it involves reckless or callous indifference.” While punitive damages are available from individual defendants, they cannot be recovered from municipalities.
If your rights have been violated by the government, contact Miller Law Group today for a free consultation or call us at (919) 348-4361. Our experienced civil rights attorneys can help you determine what damages you may be able to recover.