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 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. In addition, New Jersey law specifically allows a victim of nonconsensual image sharing (“revenge porn”) to sue the abuser in civil court for money damages (actual damages suffered as well as possible punitive damages) and reasonable attorney’s fees.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 New Jersey, you may file in the Small Claims Section of the Special Civil Part Court for no more than $3,000. (Note: The limit is $5,000 if the demand is for the return of a tenant’s security deposit.) If you are suing for an amount greater than $3,000 but less than $15,000 you can file in the regular Special Civil Part.2 If you want to sue for more than $15,000, you would file in the Civil Part of the Law Division of the Superior Court and may likely need the help of a lawyer.
You may talk to the clerk of court for help in filing a lawsuit in small claims court. You can find the forms that you need to file on the New Jersey Courts website.
If you need help in finding a lawyer who can take your case for a contingent fee, you can contact the National Crime Victim Bar Association, which offers lawyer referrals to crime victims seeking to sue offenders.
1 N.J. Stat. § 2A:58D-1
2 N.J. Stat. § 46:8-21.4; NJ R LAW DIV CIV PT R. 6:1-2(a)(1), (a)(2)