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 does not get paid unless you win in court, and then s/he takes a 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 Rhode Island, you may file in small claims court on your own for anything that is $5,000 or less.1 You can find the form that you would need to file the complaint and the answer you would need to respond to a complaint against you on the Rhode Island Judiciary website. If you want to sue for more, you will have to file in a different 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, 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 RI Gen. Laws § 10-16-1