What is a Disability Lawsuit?
A disability lawsuit is a civil case brought against an individual, company, organization, or government agency for one or more of several violations against a disabled plaintiff:
- Unlawful discrimination, such as in the workplace
- Denial of government services or benefits
- Denial of insurance benefits
- Denial of special education services
- Denial of accommodations
A disability lawsuit aims to address the situation, resolve it, and potentially recover damages. Several federal, state, and in some cases, municipal laws protect the disabled in several situations. When someone violates the laws, causing harm to a disabled person, that individual may be able to sue.
What About Disability Complaints and Claims?
Not every situation that involves discrimination, civil rights, or benefits and services necessarily leads to a lawsuit. Your lawyer may be able to help you resolve the situation without filing a suit. In some instances, filing a claim with the government agency is a required first step.
For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public spaces and private businesses to accommodate people with disabilities, within reason. If you cannot access certain places—a government building, a store, or a doctor’s office, for instance—because they do not accommodate your wheelchair, you can file an ADA complaint with the Department of Justice.
If the government finds your complaint valid, they will investigate and help you resolve it. If you are not satisfied with the result, you also have a right to file a lawsuit against those responsible. Sometimes it takes a lawsuit to get results, while in other situations, a complaint is adequate.
In the case of a denial of services or benefits for a disability, you can file a claim or an appeal if your claim is denied. If this fails, you can file a lawsuit to get the benefits you believe you are owed.
When Should I Start a Disability Lawsuit?
Whether or not a lawsuit is the right step depends on the situation and whether or not you have attempted to resolve the issue in another way. A disability lawyer provides expert guidance and can help you determine when a lawsuit makes sense. Some situations that may warrant a lawsuit include:
- When you have been denied disability insurance benefits, even after an appeal
- After being denied government services or benefits, such as social security disability
- If your child is being denied special education services at school
- If you have experienced discrimination and have not been able to resolve the situation in another way
- When discrimination costs you monetary damages, such as extra medical bills or lost wages and job opportunities
Can I Recover Damages in a Disability Lawsuit?
Often the purpose of a disability lawsuit is to restore rights, get accommodations, or receive benefits or services. In some cases, you may also be able to collect damages. Depending on the law or laws that apply, damages may be restricted or banned. For example, federal ADA lawsuits do not result in compensatory damages to the plaintiff.
On the other hand, if you face employment discrimination for your disability, you may be entitled to damages. Discrimination in the workplace can cost you lost wages and opportunities for jobs or advancement. You can put a monetary price on those losses, which means you can recover damages.
Another factor in determining damages is the jurisdiction. Federal courts and state courts allow or disallow damage in some cases. There may also be caps. Federal employment discrimination cases cap damages based on the size of the company.
Is There a Time Limit on Filing a Disability Lawsuit?
There is always a time limit on filing a lawsuit, but as with damages, this varies significantly depending on certain factors. Some situations require that you file a claim with the government before suing, and this may have a time limit of a few months.
For a lawsuit, the statute of limitations depends on the jurisdiction where you file. In a state court, you will be held to time limits set by the state. Federal lawsuits have different time limits. It is important to talk to a disability lawyer as soon as possible to avoid missing the deadline to take legal action.
Who Will I Sue in a Disability Lawsuit?
Your lawyer will know who to target in your lawsuit. The defendants depend on the charges and the laws that apply. For instance, you may sue your employer for disability discrimination. You may need to sue a government agency for denying benefits or a school district for denying special education services. Another target may be an insurance company denying disability benefits.
What Are the Steps in a Disability Lawsuit?
When you file a disability lawsuit, you need the guidance of an expert disability lawyer. The process can be confusing and involves multiple steps:
- Filing a claim or complaint.
You may need or choose to file a claim with a government agency before taking further legal action. Your lawyer will tell you if this is a required step or if it is the right thing to do if you have a choice.
- Attempting remediation.
With a claim filed, you will go through a remediation process. Your lawyer will work with the appropriate government agency to resolve the situation and get you the requires services, benefits, or damages.
- Starting the lawsuit.
If the remediation process fails, you can begin a lawsuit by filing a complaint against the defendants. This officially begins the lawsuit and triggers an investigation and discovery period so that both sides can build a case.
- Negotiating a settlement.
With investigations complete, many defendants will choose to settle. Your lawyer will negotiate with their lawyers to come up with a fair solution, which may include damages paid to you.
- Going to trial.
If the negotiation is not successful, you can go to court and try your case before a jury. Both legal teams make a case to the jury, which then decides if you are owed damages. Either side can appeal, which delays the collection of damages. Your lawyer can take you through that process.
If you have suffered discrimination or been denied accommodations, benefits, or services because of a disability, your rights have been violated. A disability lawsuit is one way to redress the wrongs caused and to restore services or recover damages. Contact a disability lawyer to find out how to take action.