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Civil Rights

Definition - What does Civil Rights mean?

Civil rights are the rights that all United States’ citizens possess. Civil rights are protected and afforded through the United States’ Constitution and include the right of free speech, the right of free press, the right to assemble, the right to freedom of religion, the right to a fair trial, the right to vote, the right to have equal access to public areas, and the right to bear arms. Persons are also protected from unreasonable searches and seizures and from cruel and unusual punishments.

Additional civil rights have been created through legislative actions including the right to avoid discrimination based on race, sex, religion, age, physical disabilities, and national origin.

Civil Rights and personal injury

If your civil rights have been infringed upon by the government, another person, or another agency, you may be allowed to file a claim or civil lawsuit.

If your civil rights have been violated by a state or federal government employee you generally have to file the complaint with the appropriate federal agency prior to filing a private lawsuit in court. For instance, if your employer has engaged in employment discrimination, these complaints are first filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Other state or federal civil rights cases can include police misconduct, fair housing abuse claims, and religious freedom claims.

Civil Rights, personal injury, and compensation

Civil rights claims are filed in civil state or federal courts. Plaintiffs have the burden of proof and will be required to prove the allegations and facts of their civil rights case. Plaintiffs will also have to prove that the defendant is responsible for the civil rights violation which caused the plaintiff harm.

To win their claim the plaintiff will have to prove their case through a preponderance of evidence, a much lower bar of proof than what is required in a criminal case.

Damages and civil rights claims

Compensation awarded to a plaintiff who wins their civil rights claim will depend on the type of claim. For example, if you have filed a discrimination case against your employer you may be entitled to back pay, a promotion, reasonable accommodation, or reinstatement.

Do not expect a large payout for a discrimination claim, however, unless you are party to a large class action employment discrimination lawsuit and the court imposed punitive damages to “punish” the employer and reduce the chance that other employers would act in a similar fashion in the future.

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