Suing an Abuser for Money
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,” 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. To do this, you will most likely need the help of a lawyer. Some lawyers will take a case like this for a “contingent fee,” which means the lawyer doesn’t get paid unless you win in court, and then s/he takes some percentage, usually a third, of whatever damages the judge orders. Sometimes the judge will order the defendant to pay for your attorney’s fees. Indiana also has a law that specifically allows a victim of nonconsensual image sharing (“revenge porn”) to sue the abuser in civil court for economic and noneconomic damages, including damages for emotional distress.1
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 Indiana, you may file in small claims court on your own for a breach of contract, a civil wrong (“tort”), or to recover property or rent for an amount up to $8,000.2 In Marion County, the limit is $8,000, not including interest or attorney’s fees.3 For more information, read the Indiana Court System’s Small Claims Courts manual or watch their video on how to represent yourself in small claims court - however these may not apply to Marion County, which has different rules and procedures. You may talk to the clerk of court for help in filing a lawsuit in small claims court. If you want to sue for more, you cannot file in small claims 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
Lawyer Referral Line: 800-FYI-CALL
Offers information and lawyer referrals to crime victims seeking to sue offenders.
1 Ind. Code §§ 34-21.5-3-1; 34-21.5-3-2
2 Ind. Code § 33-31-2-3
3 Ind. Code § 33-34-3-2