When you bring forth a civil rights case, it often takes years to settle the case or to get to trial, if the case gets to trial at all. This sounds like bad news, but the process is in place to protect all parties involved in a civil rights claim.
The pre-suit notice that an attorney has to send before filing suit requires that the Defendant(s) be given 6 months to deny the claim. It may take that long or depending on the claim the response could be faster.
If a Plaintiff has a parallel criminal case, usually the criminal case must be resolved first before a lawsuit is even filed.
As an example, you are arrested but state a rights violation has occurred. In many cases, there may be a cause of action on that violation, but some defendants may also try to allege such violations in hopes of impeding or swaying criminal prosecution.
So the criminal case must be dealt with first, and this could take days, months or years. It depends on the type of charges involved and court schedule and process.
Once you have resolution on the criminal charges, then you can proceed on a civil rights claim.
Even if you are found guilty of a crime, it does not mean you cannot assert or pursue a civil rights violation claim. These are all details that must be discussed with an attorney.
WHAT TO EXPECT
There is no such thing as a “simple” civil rights case. Civil rights cases are very technical and frequently involve complex legal issues, and that is why many lawyers DON’T take on those type of matters.
These cases take client and counsel patience, team effort, and dedication to righting a wrong against a person’s innate rights.
Clients can get frustrated as it takes time, and having regular communication with your attorney helps understand where in the process your case is, and the overall status. Additionally, in most cases there is not a “big pay day” for the Plaintiff(s) because many civil rights cases never get to trial, instead they get disposed of by way of summary judgment in favor of the defendant(s).
Summary Judgment is either granted or denied by the Judge who determines if there are factual issues that should go to a jury. What this means is that if the case gets disposed of by summary judgment, the case never gets to a jury and the Plaintiff recovers no money.
Even if a Plaintiff gets to trial and prevails on the merits, a Plaintiff will usually not recover more than the actual damages that can be proven he or she suffered.
For example, if a jury finds that a person was falsely arrested, wrongfully spent one night in jail, and suffered damages, that person is not likely to recover the amount of damages than another person would if a jury finds that the person was falsely arrested, wrongfully spent two years in jail and lost a $75,000 a year job.
In an excessive force case a jury will not award a person who was thrown down to the ground the amount that they would award a person (or his relatives) who was killed through excessive deadly force.
Although it may seem very complicated and a timely effort, it is important to speak with legal counsel if your rights were violated.
If you believe you have been the victim of a civil rights violation, you most likely have the option of filing a lawsuit against those responsible for any harm suffered as a result.
Some more useful information and resources from FindLaw.com:
“Once you decide to file a lawsuit for a civil rights violation, one of your first considerations will be where to file: in federal or state court. Depending on the specifics of your case, the choice may be yours, or your options may be dictated by an applicable law. Regardless of where the case is handled (federal or state court), in order to begin the case the person claiming a civil rights violation (the “plaintiff”) files a “complaint” with the court. The complaint sets out certain facts and allegations, in an attempt to show that the opposing party (the “defendant(s)”) is/are responsible for the civil rights violations alleged in the complaint, and for any harm suffered by the plaintiff as a result. Remember that, for some types of civil rights cases, you must file a claim with the appropriate government agency before pursuing any private lawsuit.”
Discuss with your attorney the process, expectations, and protect your rights.