Specifically, Section 1983 addresses cases in which a private citizen’s civil rights are violated by a local or state entity, employee, or individual granted authority by a governing body.
In short, Section 1983 protects civilians from an abuse of power by those granted authority by or acting as a representative of the state or local government.
§ 1983 Civil Action for Deprivation of Rights
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.
A 1983 lawsuit is a civil lawsuit filed after a victim’s civil rights are violated by an individual acting under the authority of a local or state government entity. Lawsuits can also extend beyond an individual and be brought against entities such as a sheriff’s department, public school district, correctional departments, etc.
The outcome of a 1983 claim is generally compensatory and/or punitive in nature:
As the name suggests, this outcome financially compensates the victim for damages caused by the civil rights violations. Compensation can include medical bills, lost wages, physical or psychological injuries, reputational damage, and relevant out-of-pocket expenses.
For instance, if a victim was arrested and subsequently incarcerated after an illegal search and seizure (a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights), they may be eligible for compensatory damages to cover lost wages as a result of their incarceration.
This outcome is designed to punish the accused and deter further civil rights violations. Punitive damages can only be sought against the accused individual if they act with clear ill intent or malice or outrageously beyond their scope of duty.
To file and successfully win a Section 1983 claim, you must first prove that
- A specific civil right was violated
- The accused violated your right while “acting under the color of law”
Acting under the color of law generally means that the individual accused of the violation did so while they were doing their job. For instance, if you were arrested and the police officer used excessive force, you may be able to file a 1983 claim against the officer.
If you feel your civil rights were violated by an individual acting under the color of the law, then you may be able to file a Section 1983 lawsuit.
Civil rights violations can include but are not limited to:
- Police misconduct, including the use of unreasonable or excessive force
- Sexual assault by a police officer or member of law enforcement
- Illegal search and seizures
- Unlawful arrests
- Arrests, traffic stops, stop and frisk activities that stem from racial profiling
- Inadequate medical treatment or cruel and unusual punishment while incarcerated
- Failure to provide due process
Though Section 1983 cases often involve police officers or other members of law enforcement, it’s important to note that cases are not limited to those individuals or entities. Civil rights violations can also take place within state and locally run medical facilities, school districts, municipalities, etc.
If your civil rights were violated by a member of the federal government, you cannot file a Section 1983 lawsuit. Instead, you must file a Biven claim, which deals specifically with civil rights at the federal level. The experts at Palissery Law Offices can help you determine which course of action is best suited for your claim.
If you think your civil rights have been violated by an individual or entity operating under the color of law, then you must act immediately. The statute of limitation for Section 1983 claims in Pennsylvania is two years.
The attorneys and legal experts at Palissery Law Offices are standing and have the experience and knowledge to help you fight for your rights. Contact us today at 570-331-4LAW or submit an online request for a free consultation.