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. In addition, Ohio law specifically allows a person to sue someone who has shared private sexual images of him/her for compensatory damages and punitive damages.1 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.
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 Ohio, you may file in small claims court on your own for anything that is $6,000 or less.2
You cannot sue in Ohio small claims court for any of the following:
- punitive damages, which is when a person sues for money to punish the abuser;
- defamation, including libel or slander;
- replevin, which is the return of personal property wrongly kept by another;
- malicious prosecution, which is when someone starts baseless litigation against another party with malicious intent; or
- abuse of process, which is the improper use of the court system.3
If you want to sue for more than $6,000 or for any of the other relief mentioned above, you cannot file in small claims court and may need the help of a lawyer. You may talk to the clerk of court in your county for help in filing a lawsuit in small claims court.
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 Ohio Rev. Code § 2307.66
2 Ohio Rev. Code § 1925.02(A)(1)
3 Ohio Rev. Code § 1925.02(A)(2)(a)