If you’ve watched the news at all recently, you’ll know that plenty of Americans – and the rest of the world – have found plenty of reasons to protest as of late. It’s no surprise to anyone that with rising tensions and tempers, more of these protests turn violent. But no matter what you’re protesting – the treatment of immigrants, social justice, treatment of people with disabilities and those covered by TDIU, local or national politics, or other issues – you should know the risks involved in protesting, and what you can do if you end up injured.
The incident in Charlottesville and other protests over the past few years raise serious issues about safety during public protests. Injuries and even fatalities have occurred at these protests. But what rights do you have when you’re injured in a protest situation? Who do you sue for damages? And what should you do if you are injured?
It’s not too different from any other injury lawsuit. In all cases, if you are injured then you need to seek medical attention and get documentation of your injuries. Your insurance company will also want that information to determine coverage. The hospital can give you copies of your medical records upon discharge if you ask for them.
Who To Sue?
But to sue someone is another matter. Injury lawyers may want to help, but before they can the injured has to name someone to sue. That’s harder than it may seem in a protest. Many protesters and police wear masks or face shields for protection or anonymity. Depending on the situation, video cameras and smartphones could be confiscated. Large crowds make it hard to determine where an attack came from.
Some injured people try to sue the organizations the people belonged to as a way of getting damages, but even that can be tricky. A police officer has been trying to sue the Black Lives Matter movement for injuries he sustained in a confrontation where three other officers were killed. But that particular movement was a spontaneous grassroots movement, not an organized one. There’s no core leadership that can be sued or central treasury with assets to pay for damages.
Suing a police department is also difficult. While it is possible to win police brutality cases, in a protest situation it’s easier to defend violent actions on behalf of law enforcement if it can be shown they were trying to keep the peace. Also, if the protesters are breaking the law or participating in civil disobedience actions it can make a judge or jury unsympathetic to the treatment they received.
Finding A Lawyer
That’s not to say that it’s impossible for them to lose. The City of Ferguson has lost numerous cases against protesters that were harmed or had their rights violated in the protests that happened in that city. Suing over what happened in a protest doesn’t have to be just about violent actions, though that is a common reason. Civil rights and due process violations could also provide a reason to seek compensation.
No matter what the reason, if you feel like your treatment during a protest demands compensation, speak with an attorney that has experience in these cases. Some law firms specialize in civil rights cases or suing powerful organizations. It is worth reaching out to them for a consultation. Bring whatever evidence you have of what happened at the protest so they can give you an informed opinion.
With escalating violent protests in this country, you need to know how to protect yourself if you are hurt fighting for your rights or if you’ve had your civil liberties violated. If you plan on going out to protest, consider how you will document what will happen. Keep the number of an attorney on you just in case. That way, you’ll be able to respond immediately should things go wrong.