Can a Sexual Assault Victim File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
We think of a sexual assault being prosecuted in a criminal case, but a sex crime can also be part of a lawsuit in a civil case. While a criminal charge against a perpetrator can bring fines, probation and jail time; a civil lawsuit is aimed at monetary compensation for the victim of the sexual assault.
Legal theory used to file for damages in a personal injury lawsuit
A “cause of action” is the legal theory used to file a personal injury lawsuit. Since there is no cause of action called “sexual assault,” the personal injury lawyer will choose another legal theory under which to hold the perpetrator liable; commonly, assault and battery or intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Whatever legal theory is used in the civil case, damages for a sexual assault case will be granted on the basis of the physical and emotional harm the victim suffered, and will continue to suffer, as a direct result of the abuse.
Sexual assault and sexual abuse cases often cause great, long-lasting harm to the victim and garner a lot of sympathy from juries who may award very high damages. The trouble is that unless the perpetrator is wealthy, the victim may not ever be able to collect the money. Part of the problem is that most liability insurance policies exclude coverage for intentional acts, so the only source of compensation is usually the abuser’s personal assets.
Suing others besides the abuser
In some cases, a civil suit is brought against another party in addition to the abuser. In situations where the abuse happened at a workplace, school, church or other institution the employer or organization’s owner could also be liable based on negligent supervision, complicity or cover-up or a failure to provide adequate security.
Standard of proof in civil cases
If the defendant was found guilty in a criminal prosecution, then the civil case may have a better chance for success. Using a complex legal rule known as “collateral estoppel”, the personal injury attorney may bring in evidence that a jury in a criminal case has already found the defendant guilty of committing the abuse.
Even in situations where there was no criminal case or the defendant was found “not guilty”, the civil case may still be successful because the standard of proof is lower in a civil case. The plaintiff need only prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant committed the alleged wrongful act, called “by a preponderance of the evidence” in legalese. Comparatively, a prosecutor in a criminal case must prove that the defendant committed the act “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
Personal injury lawyers handle civil cases
A civil injury lawyer, also called a personal injury lawyer is the best type of attorney to handle a civil case for the victim of sexual assault. If you were victimized by a sexual assault, seek the guidance of a civil injury attorney who can go over the details of your case and help you fight for damages.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of abuse or assault, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced personal injury attorney help you fight for justice. You may be able to seek justice through a civil lawsuit. Call the caring personal injury lawyers at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!