Suing an Abuser
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 that 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 even 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 North Carolina, the amount that you can seek in a small claims action may vary from county to county, depending on local rule, and may range from $5,000 to $10,000.1 If you want to sue for more, you will have to file a regular civil court case and may need the help of a lawyer. You may talk to the clerk of court for help in filing a lawsuit in small claims court. To read more information about North Carolina small claims court please visit The North Carolina Court System website. You can also read Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Guide to Small Claims Court.
Note: If you were the victim of the crime of disclosure of private images, the law specifically allows you to sue the person who discloses or uses the image for damages at the rate of $1,000 per day for each day of the violation or in the amount of $10,000, whichever is higher. You can also sue for punitive damages (to punish the person) and reasonable attorneys’ fees and other reasonable litigation costs.2
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 See The North Carolina Court System website
2 NCGS § 14-190.5A(g)