Legal Information: General

Suing an Abuser

Suing an Abuser

You may have a right to seek justice from an abuser through the court system where you live.

When people are injured by others, they are permitted to seek what the law refers to as "damages," in the form of money, for such things as medical bills, lost wages or employment, physical and emotional pain and suffering, and, in some cases, to punish the abuser.  Each state has its own laws on these subjects, but, for the most part, they are very similar when it comes to injuries from abuse.

Small Claims Court
If your damages are below a certain amount, you may be able to file on your own in small claims court.  Small claims court is a less formal type of court, and many people are able to go to small claims court without the help of an attorney.  Ask the clerk of court for more information on small claims court in your area.  It is possible that the courthouse that you would need to file in might be listed on our Courthouse Locations page but please call the court to confirm that you can file a small claims case there.  However, it may be important to talk to an attorney to find out what the statute of limitations are for the type of case that you are bringing.  Basically, the statute of limitations set a time-frame for how long after an incident or crime a person can be sued.  Once the statute of limitations runs out, you can no longer sue the abuser. 

Finding a Lawyer
To sue someone for damages (not in small claims court), you will most likely need the help of a lawyer.  Some lawyers will take a case like this for a "contingent fee."  That means the lawyer doesn't get paid for his/her time and labor unless you win in court, and then s/he takes some percent, usually a third, of whatever damages the judge orders.  (However, you may still have to pay court costs and other costs such as fees for mailing, copying, etc.)  Sometimes the judge will order the defendant to pay for your attorney's fees if you win the case at trial.

If you need help in finding a lawyer who can take your case for a contingent fee, you may want to contact:

National Crime Victim Bar Association
2000 M Street NW, Suite 480
Washington, D.C. 20036
Administrative: 202-467-8716
Lawyer Referral Line: 800-FYI-CALL
email: victimbaratncvc.org
Website: www.victimbar.org
Offers information and lawyer referrals to crime victims seeking to sue offenders.