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Know the Laws: Pennsylvania

UPDATED January 9, 2015

You may have a right to seek justice from the 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," which is an award 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.  In Pennsylvania, aside from suing for other claims, the law also specifically states that a victim has a right to sue if the abuser has circulated intimate or sexual images with the intent of annoying, harassing, or alarming the victim.*

To sue, 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 unless you win in court, and then s/he takes some percent, usually a third, of whatever damages the judge orders.  Sometimes the judge will order the defendant to pay for your attorney's fees.

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.

In Pennsylvania, you may file a claim in magisterial district court for an amount up to $12,000.**  However, procedures in Philadelphia county (where claims are filed in municipal court) may be different.*** For more information, please see the Philadelphia Courts website.  If you want to sue for more, you may have to file in a different court and may need the help of a lawyer. 

If you need help in finding a lawyer who can take your case for a contingent fee, 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: victimbar@ncvc.org
Website: www.victimbar.org
Offers information and lawyer referrals to crime victims seeking to sue offenders.

* 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8316.1
Consumer Legal Information Pamphlet, Pennsylvania Bar Association
The Philadelphia Courts website

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