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An Overview on Filing a Civil Rights Lawsuit

08th July 2009
By J.A. Castillo in Legal
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The first step in filing a civil rights violation lawsuit is by recognizing that your civil rights have been violated. It is important to know your rights so that you'll know when to fight and when to stop. If you feel that someone has discriminated you or treated you unfairly, you can sue the person or the organization for their unconstitutional behavior.

What are "civil rights"?

Historically, the Civil Rights Movement pertains to the struggle of the African Americans toward their fight for equality in the late 1950s. Today the civil rights pertain to the rights of a person to receive equal treatment regardless of race, gender, religion, age, nationality, disability and other characteristics. Alongside that, civil rights also protect the individual from any form of discrimination, unlawful search, unlawful arrest, brutality, and other unfair treatment. Civil rights also include the right to vote, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of movement, and the right to fair trial and due process.

What should I do if I believe someone has violated my civil rights?

Before you file any complaint, gather as much information and evidence as you can about the incident. Write down all the significant details including the assailant's information and the exact date and time when the violation happened. If there were injuries involved, take pictures of the evidence. Gather witnesses to testify about the violation.

The next important step is to contact a civil rights attorney. Depending on the violation, a competent civil rights lawyer will help you explain and understand the situation if you have a valid claim and give you the options of what you need to do next. The role of the civil rights lawyer is to make sure that the responsible party will be held accountable for their unlawful actions. The lawyer is also responsible for ensuring that compensation will be given for the physical, mental, and emotional damages, lost wages, and medical expenses of the plaintiff.

Sometimes there are certain civil rights violations that need to be first filed as a government claim before filing a lawsuit. What happens is that for some civil rights allegations there are government agencies who will verify the validity of the complaint. Let's say for example you are filing a work discrimination suit, you need to inform the government agency assigned to look after employee rights before you can proceed to filing a court lawsuit. There are certain time limitations for filing a government claim and once it's approved, they usually send you a letter that indicates "right to sue". You will be properly guided by your civil rights lawyer on all the details of your complaint.

What will be the next steps?

Once the plaintiff has decided to file a complaint to a civil court, a series of investigations will ensue. The civil rights attorney will gather the best possible evidence by effectively working with different government agencies to maximize the presentation of your case. After initial court papers and fact finding, a complex series of proceedings will follow suit. It is then very important that you participate actively in all the proceedings because more often than not a civil rights violation doesn't only involve yourself but others as well.

Joanne Aika Castillo is a writer and a legal researcher who focuses on Civil Rights Violations and Civil Rights Lawyers in Illinois. For additional information, please visit Dolan Law Offices now.
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