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Philadelphia Civil Rights Lawyer

The United States Constitution guarantees every citizen certain basic civil rights, including the rights to life, liberty and property. When a public employee acts intentionally or with reckless indifference to deny a private citizen his or her civil rights, the citizen has the right to sue the government and its employee for damages resulting from those constitutional violations. If you or a loved one has been denied their civil rights by a public employee and suffered serious injuries as a result, you may have legal recourse. Contact Youman & Caputo today for a free consultation.  Our Philadelphia civil rights attorneys will explain your options, including potential legal claims against those responsible for violating your rights.

Section 1983 Lawsuits

Civil rights lawsuits against state and local governments and their employees are often called “Section 1983 lawsuits” because they are filed pursuant to Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code (42 U.S.C. § 1983). This law was enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 to protect African Americans in the South from the Ku Klux Klan. The legislative purpose was to provide a federal remedy in federal court because the state governments and courts were unwilling to enforce the due process rights of people under the 14th amendment.

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the U.S. Civil Code provides an individual the right to sue state government employees and others acting “under color of state law” for civil rights violations. This section does not provide civil rights, but rather, it is a legal mechanism to enforce civil rights that already exist and are established under federal law.

To prove a Section 1983 civil rights claim, a plaintiff must demonstrate that “there is a violation of a right secured by the constitution and the laws of the United States and that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under the color of the state law.”

A plaintiff who establishes liability for deprivations of constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is entitled to recover compensatory damages for all injuries suffered as a consequence of those deprivations. With the help of Youman & Caputo you can bring a Section 1983 civil rights claim against the governmental parties responsible for denying your due process rights.

Common Examples of Section 1983 Lawsuits

  • Prisoner abuse – Violent assault or other abuse of inmates by correctional officers, including the needless beating, kicking or striking of inmates by prison guards
  • Police brutality – Excessive force by police officers in discharging their official duties, such as using too much force in making an arrest or using force in a situation where it is unnecessary. Also includes the inappropriate use of tasers or other weapons that are used while demonstrating an unreasonable amount of force in the circumstances.
  • False arrest – Misconduct in the arrest or detention of innocent persons by police officers, including unreasonable searches and seizures without warrants supported by probable cause
  • Malicious prosecution – Prosecutions of innocent people obtained as a result of fabricated evidence, coerced confessions or other misconduct by overzealous prosecutors or investigators
  • High-speed police chases – Police pursuits that cannot be justified on any legitimate law enforcement basis that result in the death or serious injury of an innocent bystander

Some government officials that can be considered by “person(s) acting under the color of state law” can include state and local police, prison guards or other employees, private individuals who contract with the government, or any other person acting with governmental authority.

philadelphia civil rights attorneys

Remedies of Section 1983 Claims

The damages that are available for Section 1983 civil rights violations include compensatory damages, punitive damages, and declaratory relief. Compensatory damages include actual losses, mental anguish, and humiliation, impairment of reputation, and out-of-pocket loses. Punitive damages are available when the government actor acted with an evil motive or demonstrated reckless indifference to the constitutional rights of the plaintiff. Declaratory relief is awarded when it will serve a useful purpose in clarifying and settling the legal issues in the lawsuit. The Philadelphia catastrophic injury lawyers at Youman & Caputo are ready to help you explore your legal options and hold those responsible for harming you accountable.

Section 1983 Claims are Complex and Require Experienced Representation

Section 1983 litigation is hard-fought. Governments vigorously defend their employees, often relying on a concept called “qualified immunity” that provides police officers, prison guards, and other public employees with broad protection against civil liability. Qualified immunity protects parties as long as they did not clearly violate established federal law. The parties that have “absolute” immunity include judges, legislators, prosecutors, and witnesses who testify at trial. Whether or not a government official is entitled to absolute or qualified immunity depends on the particular function that the officers carried out and not the title of their job. If you have a potential claim against any the above mentioned parties, you should talk to the Philadelphia civil rights lawyers at Youman & Caputo to discuss your options, including filing a Section 1983 lawsuit to to maximize the compensation for your civil rights claim.

Timing Limits in Section 1983 Litigation

There are strict time limitations for filing civil rights lawsuits with the court.  Failure to comply with those time limitations will result in losing the right to sue forever.  In many cases, the deadline is two years from the date of the injury but the deadline can be longer or shorter depending on the age of the injured party, the nature of the claim, the date that you became aware of the injury, and the jurisdiction where the injury occurred.

If you have suffered a serious injury as the result of a civil rights violation, the only way to make sure your claims are timely filed is to hire an experienced attorney.  Hiring a Philadelphia Civil Rights Injury Attorney from Youman & Caputo as soon as possible after your injury will ensure that all legal deadlines are met and that all your options remain open for pursuing adequate compensation.

Our Philadelphia Civil Rights Attorneys Can Help

Individuals who suffer injuries caused by official misconduct require skilled representation. At Youman & Caputo, we understand the complexities of Section 1983 claims and are committed to fighting for substantial compensation for violations of their client’s civil rights.

We have extensive experience in this area including representing the family of a 19-year-old who died tragically at Columbia County Prison after being restrained in a restraint chair for 22 hours.

If you or someone you know has suffered a civil rights violation resulting in a serious injury, contact an experienced attorney with the expertise needed to handle a Section 1983 claim. Our attorneys investigate each case thoroughly, litigate them aggressively, and will not hesitate to try any case where necessary to achieve the best possible outcome for their clients. Contact the Philadelphia civil rights attorneys at Youman & Caputo for a free consultation today.


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