Do I Need a Civil Rights Lawyer?
You need a civil rights lawyer if you think your rights have been violated or that you have experienced unlawful discrimination. Civil rights are protections under the law from discrimination based on belonging to a certain group or having a certain characteristic.
Federal and state laws protect you from discrimination in the workplace, education, housing, getting credit, public accommodation, transportation, and other settings. Discrimination is based on factors such as race, gender, marital status, disability, national origin, religion, and in some states, sexual orientation.
You may be unsure if someone violated your rights or if what you experienced was illegal discrimination. A good lawyer experienced in civil rights cases will look at your situation for free and provide advice. If you are at all uncertain about what happened or what to do next, you need a civil rights lawyer.
What Will a Civil Rights Lawyer Do for Me?
A civil rights lawyer has the experience and knowledge of the laws necessary to ensure you take the right steps after a bad experience with discrimination.
The right civil rights lawyer can help you in several ways:
- Evaluate your case.
Reputable lawyers offer free initial meetings to go over your case and give you some advice. This is useful when you are unsure if you even have a case for discrimination or civil rights violations.
- Ensure you take the right step.
Civil rights laws can be confusing. Depending on the situation, you may need to file a government claim before attempting to file a lawsuit. The right lawyer will clarify all these distinctions, so you don’t make a misstep.
- Keep you on schedule.
Claims for civil rights violations have time limits. For instance, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gives you just 180 days to file a claim. This is a necessary step before filing a lawsuit, and a lawyer will make sure you don’t miss important deadlines.
- Avoid a lawsuit.
If you don’t need to file a lawsuit to resolve the situation, it saves time and money. A lawyer can help you negotiate with those responsible for violating your rights and help you get it resolved without going to court or taking official legal action.
- File a lawsuit in the right court.
Sometimes, a lawsuit is necessary to get the desired result. Both state and federal laws may apply to your situation. Your lawyer will determine where to file and will take that first step to start an official lawsuit.
How to Find a Civil Rights Lawyer
When looking for a civil rights lawyer to help you with your situation, avoid hiring someone specializing in another area of the law. It would help if you had an expert with experience helping clients with similar cases. It’s too easy to make a mistake without the proper expertise in civil rights laws.
A good place to start when searching for a civil rights lawyer is with local advocacy groups. For instance, if you experienced discrimination on a public bus because of a disability, contact a local disability rights group for a referral. Your state bar association can also confirm that a lawyer is in good standing and has the right area of specialty in the law for your case.
Choosing the Right Lawyer for Your Case
Narrowing down your options to lawyers specializing in civil rights cases will still leave you with a list of firms and individuals from which to choose. Meet with firms and ask questions to decide who you want to hire for your case. Important questions include:
- Have you helped clients like me before, and what happened?
- Do you have results from previous clients that you can show me?
- Do you have references from previous clients?
- How would you proceed with my case?
- What do you think are the chances that I’ll win?
- What can I recover in damages?
- How long do you think the process will take?
- What do you need from me to help make my case?
- What are your fees and payment plans like?
- Who will be handling my case, you or another lawyer?
How to Work with Your Civil Rights Lawyer
Your lawyer will do a lot of the work of negotiating, investigating, finding evidence, and litigating on your behalf, but they also need your help for the best outcome. Working with a lawyer means being honest, even when it is uncomfortable.
Provide your lawyer with answers to all their questions, documentation about the incident, and information about what happened and how it has affected you. This last point is especially important. Making a case for discrimination requires proving that you have suffered harm. For instance, you may have lost a job and income or been unable to move out of an expensive apartment because you could not secure credit or housing.
Resolving a case of discrimination or civil rights violations can be complicated. It requires an experienced lawyer who knows the many state and federal laws that apply. Find a lawyer as soon as you can after going through this difficult situation. They will help you through it, but you need to act quickly.