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What is a Section 1983 Civil Rights Lawsuit?

Every person in this country deserves fair and equitable treatment. Your civil rights must be protected. Sadly, civil rights violations remain a serious issue in Georgia and throughout the United States. Some examples include: 

  • Excessive force by law enforcement; 
  • Police shootings; 
  • Prison/jail abuse; and 
  • Sexual assault committed (or allowed to occur) by public officials. 

The law provides a path to justice for victims of these civil rights violations. Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Section 1983), you have the right to file a lawsuit for justice, accountability, and compensation. Here, our Atlanta civil rights lawyers provide a guide to Section 1983 civil rights lawsuits in Georgia.  

Section 1983 Lawsuits: Color of Law

A Section 1983 lawsuit is a civil rights lawsuit filed by a person whose legal rights were violated. To bring a successful civil rights lawsuit under Section 1983, you must prove that the defendant was “acting under the color of law.” 

In other words, you cannot simply file a Section 1983 civil rights lawsuit against a neighbor who treated you in a discriminatory manner. These lawsuits must be filed against an individual or agency acting in an official government capacity. 

Section 1983 is a federal law—but it applies to state/local agencies and their employees as well. The federal government, state governments, and local governments can all be held liable for civil rights violations under this statute. 

An Example of a Section 1983 Civil Rights Lawsuit

For example, imagine that a person was wrongfully arrested by a law enforcement officer of the Atlanta Police Department. During the arrest, the individual was physically assaulted by multiple officers. This conduct would likely warrant a Section 1983 civil rights lawsuit against the Atlanta Police Department. Discriminatory arrests, police brutality, and excessive force are all examples of civil rights violations. Law enforcement agencies must be held accountable for misconduct. 

What Compensation is Available in a Civil Rights Lawsuit?

Section 1983 civil rights lawsuits are notoriously complex. The government and its employees have a duty to respect and protect your civil rights. Through a civil rights claim under Section 1983, you may be entitled to:

  • Compensatory Damage: Victims can seek financial compensation for their actual damages, including medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses. 
  • Injunctive Relief: You may also be entitled to injunctive relief under Section 1983. In effect, this is a court order requiring (or forbidding) the government or a government agency to take a certain action. 
  • Punitive Damages: Section 1983 allows victims to seek punitive damages. Essentially, punitive damages are a form of penalty damages designed to punish the wrongful conduct of the defendant. They are awarded to the victim in the form of financial compensation. 

Get Help From a Civil Rights Attorney in Atlanta, GA


At Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys, our Atlanta civil rights lawyers are passionate advocates for justice. We will protect your rights. If you have any questions about Section 1983 civil rights lawsuits, our law firm is more than ready to help. Call us now or connect with us online to set up a no-cost, fully confidential initial consultation. From our Atlanta law office, we handle civil rights cases throughout Georgia.